Friday, January 27, 2012

The Sapmukda Rama - Mukdahan, Thailand

In the furthest depths of Mukdahan's bus station, past the spew of exhaust smoke and the baritone rumble of idling diesel engines, lies a narrow passage between two anonymous shop-houses.

This passage opens on to a back alley; as nondescript and choked as you might find in any Thai city.

The narrow passage between two shop houses.

An alley view.

The Sapmukda Rama in all its ordinariness.

One of the many featureless structures comprising this sliver of city is the Sapmukda Rama: functioning proof that the art of movie theater design isn't what it used to be, and a further reminder of the decline of the architect's role in Thai public life.

But an uninspired design does not detract from the social value of the Sapmukda Rama, nor the viewing quality, which was at least as good as anything the shopping malls can offer up (at a third of the price).

What's more, the Sapmukda Rama is attached to the Sapmukda Hotel, a coupling once fairly common in the provinces, where there tends to be one, maybe two big families that own all the important commercial and social infrastructure in each town.

The Sapmukda Rama Movie Theater can be accessed from the 2nd floor hallway of the Sapmukda Hotel.

From foyer to auditorium entrance.

Ticket booth

Exchange at the concession stand.

Enter the theater.

Two groups of high schoolers made up the bulk of the audience on that Friday afternoon, one group all girls, the other all boys. The film - a Thai-dubbed version of Shark Night 3D - reached its target market with great precision, attested to by the young crowd through their synchronized screams and ribald enthusiasm.

What better place than the town theater for the young to develop their capacity for emotional expression, among friends, anonymously?

Hand painted billboards, like this one at the entrance to the Mukdahan bus station, are still produced by the Sapmukda Rama - a newish stand-alone theater using an old form of advertising.


The Sapmukda Rama was built some 10 years ago, one of several newer stand-alone theaters erected in Thailand's vast Isan region.

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