Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Paradise Theater - Pattani, Thailand

Push aside the grisly headlines regularly connected to Thailand's 3 southernmost provinces. Behind the reports of terrorist bombings and religious extremism is a gem of a region inhabited by some of the most hospitable people in the land. Pattani, the largest city in the region, is no exception. And despite an absence of active cinemas, mall-bound or otherwise, this is a town that deserves its due among Thailand's urban geography.

Within an hour of setting foot in Pattani I was being whisked around town on the back of a motorcycle belonging to a coffee shop proprietor who, aside from closing up his shop expressly to give me a guided movie theater tour, also refused to let me pay for the coffee. Two hours in, I was sharing a beer with a direct descendant of the founder of the city, a 7th generation Pattanian who graciously gave me an unsolicited tour of his 150-plus year old Sino-Portuguese manor, established by his illustrious forefather on land granted to him by King Mongkut. Old Town Pattani as the neighborhood is informally known, would no doubt be an attraction were not the city so closely associated with sectarian violence.

The following day I was invited down to city hall to talk movie theater history with the City Comptroller, whom I had met the previous evening while sipping beers with my new friend. As it turned out, the Comptroller's father was the movie booker for Pattani's quintet of cinema halls in the 1960's and 70's. We chewed the fat about the good old days of the cinema business, before the the threat of terrorism in Pattani scared people from going to public places. For Pattani, this was a key factor in the decline of movie theaters. 

The Paradise Theater stand's at the far end of an alley, just across from the river.

Of the 5 movie theaters that served the city over the years, only one remains that has any resemblance to its original function - The Paradise Theater. Unsurprisingly, the Paradise was newest of all the theaters built in Pattani, dating only to 1981, the tail end of Thailand's stand-alone movie theater construction boom. Its most recent owner, the southern Thai movie producer/director Khom Akaradej, closed it down in 2006, not long after the southern insurgency gripped the city. 

While the Paradise's dimensional signage still sits boldly atop the cornice, gently reminding people of merrier times, the once cavernous auditorium has been turned into a swiftlet's house.  

6 year sago, moreover, a story about the Paradise was submitted to this blog. You can read that here.

Dimensional rooftop signage, a hallmark of Thai stand-alone movie theaters.

Research led me to the Office of the City Comptroller of Pattani. Here we are creating good will over movie theater memories. 

Some photos taken near the King's Theater, now destroyed, supplied by the Pattani City Comptroller.

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