Wednesday, 1 July 2020

“Bangkok’s last movie palace”

This weekend, the curtains will close on the Scala cinema’s screen for the last time. After more than fifty years, the cinema will show its final film on 5th July.

The Scala was the last of three prestige cinemas in Bangkok’s Siam Square operated by the Apex Group. Their first venue, Siam Theatre, opened in 1966; damaged by arsonists in 2010, it was demolished to make way for a shopping mall. Apex Group’s Lido cinema closed its doors in 2018, after fifty years, though it reopened the following year as Lido Connect, a cinema and performance venue.

Its Modernist exterior and elegant Art Deco lobby (designed by Jira Silpakanok in 1969) made the Scala an architectural landmark. With its velvet curtains, veteran ushers, and vast auditorium, it evoked the golden age of film exhibition.

The building’s fate had been in the balance since 2012, when landowners Chulalongkorn University first attempted to redevelop the area into yet another mall. Continued pressure from Chulalongkorn, combined with a recent two-month shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, made the cinema’s closure a sad inevitability.

In his book Thailand’s Movie Theaters, Philip Jablon called the Scala “Bangkok’s last movie palace”. The building was also photographed for the Filmvirus book Once Upon a Celluloid Planet.

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