For those who don’t know about it, there is a wonderful web page/project called The Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project where someone is going around primarily mainland Southeast Asia, and particularly Thailand, and is documenting the existence of old movie theaters, “whether operating, abandoned, or repurposed.”
I was thinking about that project the other day when I was looking at some issues of a Chinese newspaper from Bangkok and came across many advertisements for movies. What surprised me is that there seems to have been A LOT of movie theaters at the time.
For instance, there were the following:
Da Guanghua 大光華 (Great Splendor)
Diguo 帝國 (literally “empire,” but it has King’s Theater in English)
Fanhua 繁華 or Fanhua 70? (Luxury/Prosperity)
Guotai 國泰 (Cathay)
Huanghou 皇后 (Empress) and Bailehui 百樂匯 (Entertainment Clearinghouse – a loose translation)
Jingdu 京都 (Capital)
Jin Wutai 金舞台 (Golden Stage)
Legong 樂宮 (Fun Palace or Entertainment Palace)
From right to left we have here Nanxing 南星 (Southern Star), Xinhua 新華 (New China) and Lugou Qiao 盧溝橋 (i.e., what’s known in English as the Marco Polo Bridge)
Pailajia 派拉家 (?? Is that right? If so, it must be the transliteration of a non-Chinese name. Is “lajia” “racha”? “Phraracha”?)
Tinghua 亭華 (??)
Xin Gaoting 新高亭 (New High Pavilion)
Xin Yaogong 新瑤宮 (New Jade Palace)
From right to left: Xi Wutai 西舞台 (Western Stage) and Zhennan 振南 (Raising the South)
It’s unclear to me if these are Chinese theaters or the Chinese names of Thai theaters or both. We can assume that the ones showing Chinese films are Chinese, but for the others, I’m not sure. They don’t have addresses. And I was going to check in Thai newspapers what was playing in the theaters and try to match the movies, but there are two years where for some reason the library I use did not get Thai newspapers (1961-62) and these advertisements are from 1961.
So at some point I might go check, but for now it will have to remain a mystery. Hopefully, however, this will “inspire” The Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project to look into this matter. I’m curious to know.