Friday, September 20, 2013

Popular Bangkok movie palace, no more

The Rama Sam Yan Theater, more commonly known under the truncated name of Rama Theater, is reportedly undergoing demolition.Word of the architectural loss came by way of a comment recently posted on the SEAMTP's Facebook page. This report was later reconfirmed, along with a photo of the theater's half-fallen auditorium. A high rise condominium will be constructed in its place.

The Rama's demise marks the end of one of Bangkok's most popular movie palaces of the 1970's and 80's. It was also one of the first movie theaters in the country to combine multiple functions under one roof, with office space and bowling alleys accompanying the theater.

Aside from its multiple functions, the Rama Sam Yan Theater is noted for its unique architectural modernism. Elements of Japanese temple architecture can be seen in the design of its stand-alone ticket booth located in a five-story atrium lobby. On the theater's upper facade, entrants were greeted with a relief of a bowler knocking down pins above the marquee.

The Rama Sam Yan dates the late 1960's. The movie section from Bangkok newspapers circa 1976 have it listed under the Apex Circuit, then known as Pyramid. It may very well have been either contracted or purchased by the once prolific Apex chain, which was spearheaded by former movie theater mogul Pisit Tansacha.

Located on Rama IV Road in the Sam Yan neighborhood of Bangkok, the Rama's demolition follows the recent demolition of the majority of old Sam Yan, a low-rise, traditionally a middle and working class Chinese neighborhood.

The Rama Sam Yan Theater complex c. 2009

Artistry in relief form, the Bowler

Ticket booth in Japanese moderism

Atrium lobby and ticket booth

Farewell to the Rama Theater


  1. Fortunately I managed some photos of the unique lobby here earlier last year. The Thai-Chinese owners forcefully refused all of my polite attempts/request to photograph the bowling alley / auditorium. Totally illogical given they probably new already was going to be demolished! What exactly were they protecting? Thanks for alerting me to this lost gem.