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Travel to Bangkok


The Scala, Bangkok

1 May 2014

Neha Kale meets the people running historic independent movies theatres

Navigating the five-minute journey between the Siam BTS station and the Scala, a lavish picturehouse established in 1969, calls for an aversion to everything that makes Bangkok intoxicating: throngs of people, bustling street vendors and an endless sea of neon. But stepping inside the marble foyer, a space characterised by soaring ceilings, giant bronze flowers and a staircase that seems to float in mid-air, is proof of the Thai capital’s tranquil second face. 

“The Scala’s architecture is a combination between East and West and represents a harmony between two different worlds,” says Suchart Vudthivichai, the cinema’s long-time creative consultant. Vudthivichai works closely with proprietor Nanta Tansacha, whose stage actor father Pisit Tansacha built the 1,000-seat picturehouse – a perfect union of Thai modernism and tropical Art Deco – during the cinema construction boom that swept the country during the 1960s. 

Although it’s been nearly half a century since Tansacha doled out ice-cream to Friday night moviegoers, the Scala’s original spirit has remained intact – an attendant manning a wood-panelled booth jots down your seat number on a ticket stub and a grinning usher, wearing a lemon-yellow tuxedo, makes sure you find your seat. The fact that you can purchase a ticket and box of popcorn for around US$4 nods to a pricing approach that’s as insistently retro as the decor. 

However, the Scala, which swapped its 35mm projector for a state-of-the-art digital system in 2013, is fiercely committed to pleasing modern-day audiences. 

“We screen a wide variety of movies and relentlessly search for good art films and fine documentaries along with first-run studio films, Oscar and Golden Globe winners,” explains Vudthivichai. For Tansacha, the threat that this silver screen oasis may be demolished is no match for the faith in her family’s legacy or the loyalty of her staff, many of whom have worked with her since the 1970s. 

“Our family has been in the entertainment business since my birth and movies are our heart and soul,” she says. 




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