La Scala Siam: a Vintage Cinema Experience in Bangkok

The Scala is the best cinema in Bangkok to see films such as ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ the latest release by Wes Anderson. It’s not the kind of movie usually shown in Bangkok, the big chains seem to prefer the latest American blockbusters or bizarre looking Thai horror movies. This is one of the many reasons the Scala is so great. As someone who used to go to the cinema at least twice a week in the UK, it allows me the chance to keep my finger on the pulse of the more art house releases.

One of the best things about the Scala is the building itself. Built in the sixties it has a brilliant retro feel that reminds me of trips to the ABC when I was a young child. The entrance hall is suitably flashy, with a huge chandelier hovering just over the stairs.  It’s like entering a huge church for the worshippers of celluloid. The auditorium is also a delight, a thousand red velvet seats arranged around a huge screen. There may be less leg room than across the road at Siam Paragon, but it’s worth the sacrifice. This year it was even given an award for “Outstanding Conservation of Art and Architecture 2012,” by the Association of Siamese Architects under Royal Patronage.

It really does feel like the whole place has been frozen in time. The popcorn is only 30 Baht (around 60 pence) and our tickets were only 100 Baht each (2 pounds). The ticket man was dressed in a very natty jacket and bow-tie combo, and he looks like he has been around since the cinema was first opened in 1969. The entire experience was so pleasing I am already looking forward to my next visit.

Sadly it seems like the Scala’s days may be numbered. Its lease is due to run out in 2016 and there are rumours they will knock it down to build … another shopping centre! It seems terribly sad to destroy such a beautiful link to Bangkok’s past to build another shiny soulless building in an area already filled with far too many malls. Thankfully many others agree, and hopefully the fight to save what is now a very small slice of cinema history in Asia will prevent this from happening.

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Scala Theatre, Siam Square Soi 1, Rama I Rd – BTS: Siam