The Extension of Life Called "Cinema"
Written and translated by Manotham Theamtheabrat
(Original Thai version printed in สวรรค์ 35 มม. ONCE UPON A DREAM: The Final Grace of Thai Movie Theatres, FilmVirus Books. May 2014)
After the 'Hollywood' theater no longer existed, nobody would believe that very cinema house becoming one of the most visiting theaters in my sleep, alongside with the other second run and a double billed movie house in the neighborhood in which I spent most of my time during my childhood in the outskirt of Bangkok.
The movie theater named 'Po Thong Rama' was situated on a not very big area, estimated by its looks maybe more or less than fifty something square metres, at the top of the building installed the name of the theater that playing with a slope of each letter (in Thai characters) which starting with the steepest that gradually lowering its height before it rising up again prior to reach at the highest level which imitated the aspect ratio of wide screen cinema scope.
Po Thong Rama' , a nice, cute and tiny theater house in the area situated itself like an island in the middle of a not too wide street, at its two sides surrounded by middle height buildings, at the corner of the left row located a watch maker s, next to the barbershop, besided by a noodle which famous for its red tofu sauce. At the opposite side to the right also run a chicken rice restro, but liquor also available and served, next to a arrow passage way that actually an in betweeners to two blocks that locals regularly passing through the marketplace.
Up to the same side, once there was another style of noodle shop which labelled itself as a pioneer for big sizes meatball (more or less, up on my life experience), next after the next ones, you would find an ice cream parlor whose owner s daughter really angelic cute (somehow, she is a girl at my age) , after all we were class mate in my primary school, especially when she performed a dancing revue on stage at a school s celebration, she almost had made her audiences lose their breath, don t tell anyone her name was Tad Soung (or Thub Suong whatsever)
At the street next to the movie theater s building that leads to the marketplace also standing two rivalry toy stores, the first one much much more varieties, whose advantageness due very much to its cornerside of establishment that allows the shop owner to display merchandises on both sides, to the front and its side, where displayed mini model toy cars under a prevelege brand 'Match Box.
One of the shops runs by a middle aged woman (named as 'Ah Hua') who swallowed and gulfed both my allowances and money out of my grandma s purse, one of them was a viewer for a manual rolled mini film cell that even smaller than an 8 mm.,which seperately sale out of its principle projector at the price of one Baht each with a diameter at less than six inches roll, available only in B & W, featuring an endlessly boxing match until it was no longer run manually.
At the opposite side of Ah Hua s toy store runs another literary opposite by its look, that ranges from the shop s owner s age, character, and mannerism, beside the latter one s even more discreet, cool hearted and less speaker to those customers which some time just only a window shopper (that proves her oppositeness when comparing to that of Ah Hua). Some of Ah Ma s toy store less advantageness owing a great deal to the size and height of her shop, nevertheless her property may looks smaller by regarding the larger of the room. Meanwhile Ah Hua s store runs her business mainly on the toys, except Ah Ma syet divided her space into household facilities, even the front she also provided her front for some fresh guavas in mixing up with child s playthings, which not so ripe nor too green, even now every time I have the kind of tropical fruit, the taste of those guava from Ah Ma s still keep on following by its taste and scent.
At the little corner of Ah Ma s store, also a space that provided for child that about to become age comers, a lottery random tickets for the gamblers for the most desired goods that not available for sale, that one ticket for a quarter of one Baht.
One of the 'winning reward' was a souvenir mini postcard in color with mild quality sheet of paper displayed a very well known Thai actor, Sombat Metanee posing in wearing swimming short while playing his guitar, asided with a cutie in her two pieces bikini, Chomchai Chatwilai presenting with movie title, Kai Na (Farm Chick). that gave me a hint that Thai movie with the same title still a sensation in town.
All out lets alongside both path qays that leds to the movie theater which ranges from Ah Ma & Ah Hua s toy store, Ping Pong meatball noodle shop, as well as the one with red tofu soup even ice cream parlor where my old time beloved inhabited were all significant factors that truely nourishing Po Thong Rama as a movie theater for the community for the while period of its establishment (perhaps this characteristic that initials to a paradigm in the later days multiplex in providing all facilities all around cinema parameter.)
For the time being, my family d already moved out of Bangpo area, that turned out to be further and further, but whenever I had been passing by the quarter in which I used to spend my time in my younger age, I can t help paying a nod to the property that once standed a cinema house building, with a desperately false hope wishing that the very movie house would come back and serve the whole community once and forever more, that proved hopeless. nevertheless the Po Thong Rama does not wither away after all.
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Nostalgia sentiment still ever fresh and anew inside memories, still keeps on haunting me consecutively in my sleep for so many years, in self psychological analyses tradition, there would be no other reasons than U need to get back to some place where I belong, for reality by repossessing the very sane property that once owned by my parents, Po Thong Rama should be well regarded as one of the many and 'many(iesss)' agendas that feature its 'local' characteristic as Bangpo, beside temple, school. food shop, marketplace, conjee shop ,as run by Mr Birthmark, newstand and book shelf of Madame Now, television maintanace services by Mr. Prachouen, and of course Po Thong Rama movie theater where anyone can be participated and conveniently access, regardless that the movie house itself also honorably invited to access to everyone who once patronize its business, in term of mind setting in mesmerising memories.
In the donkey years, there were no traditions for suburban second run movie theater in screening double bill features , due to the length of individual s running time which averagely more or less 2 hr. and a half, not until the competitiveness among rivalrieship from newly come entrepraneurs that initials double features presentation which mostly Hollywood releases.
Prabably maybe at that time, I was so skinny and small, whatever being appeared to may eye sight. were all big and grand, even the last show at late night was over, all audiences would be walking out of theater at ye same time, which my height only their legs and thigh. in following each one another cast a long shadows like a visual of earthling hosts in welcoming 'visitors', from Speilberg s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, that both mystique and enchanting, at the exit way out to the main road also installed a big sign in suggestion "We Will Meet Again at the Next Change ", which I found very seductive.
A little boy named Manotham at his seven years of age never runaway out of his homestead to see 'Dr. Karn ' at this very theater, but his curiosity that motivated him to remain in his seat to see and proof the reason why the beginning and the end from the previous session represented exactly the same images and story? until then his mom s fingers grabbed on his shoulder to be home at the circle balcony at the admission price of seven Baht literary.... by that time, his bepuzzled amazement yet wonder if audiences at the stall seeing the same screen with those on the upper balcony?
On the balcony seats did not always means snobbery, but that d be earn you a previelegeship to get clse to dubbing artists at work inside a glass shielded kiosk like at time when I saw 'Mr Eel' (Por Pla Lai), the only physical evident that proved audiences at both circle balcony re seeing the same images to those at stall was the underneath to the screen found a holy scripture written in incomprehensible characters which d be more visible if you re sitting in the front row of the stall with the cheapest ticket price at five Baht, when you paid it in plain bank note, where once I beseated there when when watching P Chalong s Two Great Guys from Two Countries(1972), in combination with another Japanese flick which I wish to know its original title (but the localized title in Thai suggested as 'Erotica Island , Beach of Cuties ' ?)
All of the sudden, Po Thong Rama d been challenged by newly come entepreneurs, at the entrance to the road from the in bound route since the beginning of construction period in circa 1972 until its opening in the following year, which even bigger auditorium with a slope hall indifferent to those of first run s in the down town labelled as Bangpo Theater , only a brief period of time at the far corner of the main intersection that leads to another suburban side of the city , also established another bigger and more lavish which almost opened simulteneous, alongside with a new community marketplace, name of the cinema was Krungthep Rama.
Actually, the propietor who would be more aware to that newly establishment should be Chalermphan which located at beside a big cross over bridge nearby water supply canal, whose age presumebly maybe even longer than that of Po Thong Rama, notstanding with the service area of the cinema might not be in overlapping with Po Thong Rama s community. As a result, Bang Po inhabitants d already provided choices in going to cinemas ,back then at Four theaters.
Pracharat I : 'Poh Thong Rama' (main compettitor : Bangpo Theater )
Pracharat II :'Chalermphan' (Rivalry : Krungthep Rama)
Major characteristic of Bangpo Theater that regarded as a coolness advantage was mainly in screening Hollywood releases, most of all, the availibility in display tie in installments that previously shown at the lobby of down town first run cinemas at the main passageway that leads to the theater, for example, when the theater runs Enter the Dragon , at the main enteance d be installed a giant cut out of Bruce Lee s image, when theater scheduled to screen The Daring Doberman Gang, the display attraction d be shifted into a larger sizedmodel of Doberman at the height of four or five metres in action with sharp white fangs and teeth.
Opening of Bangpo Theater attracted a trendy fad among classmates on school bus that the theater management s high potential in obtaining print copies from Walt Dianey Studio s local distribytor only a few week after being screened at Hollywood theater.
Some of my school mates at that time (asking for permission in mentioning her name), such as Nok, Miss Phantabee Ujjin. as the topic leader opening with the animation 'Lady and the Tramp' currently runs at Bangpo Theater, I won t be hesitated in encouraging my elders in family to accompany me along with my best friend at that time Mr. Noppahat Hiranyarat and my girl relative who a few years of age younger than me, Oranuch 'Aoi' Srimongkol meanwhile adults also needed, for the purpose of movie ticket fees. makes all four that decided to take took took taxi directly ride to the theater, with the admission price at seven Baht each.
Despite on our arrival, the most desired movie d already in session, dialogue sound audible through shielded curtain at the cinema entrance while all of us yet to find proper seats that good for four, one of them was "What is the child?" , as delivered by the Lady that question on a newly born baby of master of the house, in which renders to her uncertainty whatever it would be a threatening or even the Mistress would be running out of her tenderly attitude towards her.
All audible lines coming from the voice of an infamous female dubbing artist, Rachaneewan (Kanithsen) whose sweety , acousticly and beauty voice that matching with the image of a cocker special breed canine look of the Lady s character.
No sooner than there were any of Disney s releasing in town d be caused an effected on elders of my family (for the reason that I won t be allowed to go outside by myself, only except on walking to buy some comics magazine at nearby newstands) , the movie like 'My Dog, The Thief' (which I saw it with another young aunty), $1,000,000 Duck, which I went with my grandma.
Thanks to my grandmother who owes a great deal to my life, at that period of time she had not reached to the age of senior citizen (presumebly about in her fifties), who became regularly my companionship at the movies, after my solely give a suggestion that stared from a feature release of Shaw Brothers Studio like Young People with Ti Lung, David Chiang , but the main attraction goes to the angel, Agnes Chan who briefly appeared on screen, let me do a wild guess, in the early seventies, she s still arise, and every minutes re all counts, the movie was not that great, but my grandma d made a presumption that I m real fan of action genre flicks.
While same old community cinema mainly screen Thai films, a newly opened Bangpo Theater yet kept on introducing variety to the locals that wider ranges committment to almost all of distributors that demonish its significance, major studio releases becoming less and lesser, a certain amounts of independent movies turned increasing, I visited that theater once more for the screening of an animation Alacazam, the Great which depicted a well known legendary Chinese folk tales on Journey to the West that re named all central characters to become westernized while the story line focuses on a battle against Giant Bull Demon with his magical tan, beside for the original sound track version, the leading voice talent d be Frankie Avalon as the title role, I had come to realized after the information that release in 1975 was only a re-issue after it d been debuted in 1961, by that same period if time the movie also formerly theatrical released.
Once in a while, Bangpo Theater also presented Thai films as alternative, the most impressed was Hanuman and Seven Ultraman, there no need to be hesitated , at the main lobby also displayed a greeting seasons with tag line like Happy New Year, 1975 that easily feel the touch of celebration. the movie was premiere at Sala Chalermkrung since vacation break in between late year semester in November, that most of my grade 4 classmates already previously viewed .
Coming back to the old faithful Po Thong Rama that altered itself to show imported foreign pictures, so far as I would recall, there were a packaging presentations of feature film version of reknown Japanese TV show, like Red Shadow, all of the early the movie versions of Kamen Rider also screened here, with another featurettes also be parted of the same combo, that depending on its distributor, Toei d launched, for instance, the movie version of the original Kamen Rider d be in combination with Tiger Mask, Part 2, d be lingered by Baron One, where the third installation that some partials d be screened in 3 D format, audiences d be needed to carry a piece of 3D spectacles in hand to be cautioned themselves to the notice caption on screen, with shape of one piece of cardboard that bended at the far sided with two colors of cellophanes, red and blue that accurately corelated in assemblance with the out fit of the hero.
All these features, I d previously seen since it first came out at first run cinema ,the first two at Broadway Theater (with my mom), with the exception of the third installment which I also got the fever pitch to a newly opened cinema house in Urupongse area, Petch Piman Theater, where my elder close neighbor, Mr. Tang d been previously viewed since it d just premiere, already described its luxurious interior designed in throughly full scale traditional Thai style, starting from building, doorway entrance, windows that might be caused a bemused puzzlement to a Buddhist monastry. one of the most significances in this theater was all women employee staffs at all function, beside box office, doir lady receptionist, or even the usherettes, not until the management d screened a feature length version of Kamen Rider V3, the Movie in 3D, I needed to be in rush to be a witness by my own eyes.
All theatrical release versions of Kamen Rider, I d averagely viewed each of them twice (with an exception of the original, which I d been to it thrice, including at Krungthep Rama), apart from the fourth installment, Kamen Rider V3 VS Neo Shocker Syndicate that I d missed, as well as a feature version of Ultra Man With A Magic Crystal Glass, I ll tell you the reason in the next few paragraphs.
A fierceful rivalryship in compettitiveness and responsive strategies against pressure from challengers all around that rendered Po Thong Rama needed to adapt and adjust itself in marketing schemes, for instant. the management d potentially install a display that once belonged to Scala during its formerly release of Jason ans the Argonauts, in which a giant seperate apart two rock mountain to let the ship that led by the hero in passing through, besided by a sword fighting with a army of skeletons of the title role.
The mostly and beloved maketing project that initiated by the management was a promotional matinee shows for kids, at 8 am., with the admission price at five Baht (air conditioned system not included). the responses, a landslide (including me) staring with Viyage to the Bottom of the Sea,followed by Red Shadow, the Movie, that I d clipped its advertising from newspaper inpreparation, but not the most desireable feature show, Godzilla VS Hedorah.
Not only did Pothong Rama showed mainees for children, but late at the midnight it provided an exclusive screenings For Adult Only show times, one of them that still keeping in my curiosity that I d recall it only by localized title as Slaught!, with a lobby card that still gruesome graphic even in B & W, presenting a women s facial with her eyes widening in herfear that being chopped with a machete still on it that fresh blood sprouts along the blade s edge, yet still persisting into my visual. the great bewildered question is I still can t find out the title yet, that (unprooved) whether it might be a publicized of snuff movies, or merely a giallo film from Italy (which occured at the very same period to the golden age of the genre, in the seventies in which the incident d been taken place in 1976), the effect on my mentality about the release (of Slaght!) d become a typical sene ofsynonyme to the term Midlnight movies for quite some time.
However, Pothong Rama also presented some classic cinema going experiences like Irma, La Douce, Bonnie and Clyde, The Wild Bunch, Midnight Cowboys that innings and outings at this movie theater, but on my preferentials at that time should be Taiwanese s The Goddess if Mercy which I saw it with my best friend art that time. Mr. Surajit Khetkhudee. Then arrived an attraction for summer school holidays vacation , I d been to a double bill release of a Disney s classic animation like Alice In the Wonderland that in combination with The Ultimate Warrior with Yul Brynner co srarring with Max Von Sydow (whom I don t even know who s the guy by that time),, the film s quality is not bad. only except for the climatic scene where Mr. Brynner dumps a big type writer over the head of the movie s bad guy, which even more imprinted on my visuals even more and last longer than Alice s.
Seemingly like a fish that always swimming upstream, that once a theater that mainly showed Thai movies since day one, all of a sudden turned its look by screening foreign ones, and vice versa like Bangpo Theater. One night in early May of 1976, a public TV d broadcast an annual presentation of the most prestigeous Awards presentatation for the last year s releases of Thai cinema, as organized by Association of Film Journaists, inwhich I had paid my attention with enthusiasm, while I trained myself by photo shot snapping all along when each recipients of the awards appeared on stage in exchanging embarasses with those who presented to them.
At that time, the camera which I d been using for photo takings was Kodak s autometic Instametic, that imprinted on a film cartridge that loding with 24 frames all in B&W, besided from seperately purchased cubicized flash bulbs that enabling to be usilised once at a time. that would be taken only four for each bulb, the result = all loses.
The Announcement at that night, the best picture (which regularity, supposed to consider in evaluating movies that released in the previous year round), where the winner was The Warlord (Khun Suek) notstandingwith it was still currently screened at first run cinema?, otherwise, only a few week ends, the very same film d arrived to our local cinema, Bangpo Theater.
Without no hesitate, Sunday afternoon in the month of June, my destination was going to that movie theater for certain, inwhich the management d presented in a double bill with another recently released Thai sex comedy entitled "Diamh!" (directed by an under rated talent, Boonsith Wiboonlaph, whose sensational, Botan d showed the previous year)
In viewing Khun Seuk, The Warlord, with high focus and concentration, meanwhile I also getting wierd at the scene where the hero, the bad guy and the commander re singing altogether in a tradition of musical, in beginning with "One finger won t be a bearer for the whole hand ....", starting with a beginner (Sombat s role in showing his point finger) then connected by the next follower all way round, considering by my position at that moment as an audience who tolerated myself to the same scene twice, since by the time I reached to the theater, already at the middle of session, then spent once more time to the next show for the full movie.
Something in between both screenigs of Khun Seuk was something a very surprising that the movie d been made ahead of its time, despite in intended to be a comedy, but more classy and tasty that common rude farces in uncountable amounts, despite it deallt with numorous sexual adventure behaviors, with mild obscene, but less harmful perverse graphic sexual explicits, with amazingly intacted by the local censorship, furthermore, the film makers also imply a symbolic in some certain scenes.
'Boiling kettle' , 'a train penetrating into a tunnel' serving a universal symbols as understood by all re implemented into a scene which a millionare playboy at an intimacy acquintanceship with a declining movie star actress who sided bar earning her income by practicing an indiscreet profession, one astonishingly co incident was what s the movie s title she d been made, the pseudonyme title suggested as "Trouble- Turned-Merry Romance" (Rak Uttalud) which had not yet been existed at that time until one following year that phase d turned out to be the title of a sequel to the domestic big success by the respecful, Piak Poster s, for real.
As soon as Diamh! finished, it s time for all audiences to pack altogether into cinema s restroom, besides some co incidents d iccurred in the men s room, almost all of my class mates from six graders re joining together without any beforehand appointment? (Niphond, Kittipongse. Boonchoke. Jirachai, Samour Pongse ant others). question is which movies do they willing to see, The Warlords or Diamh!?
At dawn if the following year, sometime in February, 1977, the Bangpo area d appeared into a newspaper on the fire accident, not that I informed by the news bottomline, but I stood a witness by myself, as a thickening big black smokes emerging into the air that maybe alluded to some folks as cloudy that lowering its layer , only except they were dark and constantly puffing in afar distance less than one km.. where the building of Bangpo Theater located.
If you blane me as a yellow, I would accept it, that I had been living by that age, having not yet experienced a live fire accident in front to my eyes, but with instinual response or whatsoever you may call, I decided to grab a small instametic auto camera which I had mentioned earlier to take photo shots as physical evidents, this time the result s fine.
Fire accident that occurrd to Bangpo Theater may not really caused any effects on townspeople of Bangpo, but a great best friend of mine, whom we are still in contact when we become grown ups, lemme mention by name as Mr. Tassanai Sakulboonloy, who composed a song in commemorablium to the loss of a theater, whose lyrics based on a very well recognised pop song of the period. 'Mourneful North East'.
"Once we had a theater,
the fire d caught and swept away from us,
land had become empty, there were no longer movies to be seen,
such a great loss, whose fault to be blamed,
for sixteen blocks, had torn themselves into nothingness,
sorrow, sorrow, sorrow"
Not enough, Tasanai also composed another lyrics for 'Bangpo Theater, Our Beloved Cinema' which spoof on a commerial on television of the last movie that ever showed at that theater, beyong anybody s expectation was 'Stray Chick',
"Cook a doodle, Cook a doodle, chick hatched from egg, then growing into hen,
which kund of chick would you preferred?
(Mr. Tassanai adding by interruption to the full)
Flash! Flash! HELP! HELP!
Somebody, Pease Help!
The Movie Theater s On Fire !"
Since then, Bangpo Theater had been closed for good without any consents by no one, remained only wrecked and ruined all over the site, burnt stained be found here and there, sooner or later, this property might be under destruction, then turning into under renovate constructed, no sooner than it was completed to become a new grand and luxury building that good for living conditions, with a brand new look under the new sign advertised as 'Bangpo Apartment'.
Beyond the most speculation on earth, the newly finished building of Bangpo Apartment, beside its proper function as an entertainment venue for the public and inhabitants of Bangpo, then become a place for living of my family almost instantly after it had opened, back then we all removed in full scale by March, 1980.