Following yesterday’s visit with Thailand’s #1 movie poster collector, today we’ll take a look at Bangkok’s fancy moviegoing experiences that have yet to make their way to our part of the world.
First off, Thailand loves their King. Our guidebook claimed that anyone who speaks badly about the King in public is immediately thrown in jail. While I’m skeptical about that (the book also claimed that no one in Thailand wears shorts, shorts were everywhere, except in the Grand Palace), the country’s love for their ailing leader was apparent in a countless number of billboards, framed photos in taxicabs, and pre-film presentations. A heartwarming, propaganda-like video of the King is shown before every theatrical film and the audience is expected to stand and pay respect to his history of good deeds. I actually found it rather charming, but if that kind of thing was required over here where I see five movies a week then I’m sure it would grow tiresome quickly. Anyway…
Located in the heart of Bangkok’s Siam Square is the massive Siam Paragon shopping center, a seven story complex that includes an opera hall, the Thai Art Gallery, and the largest aquarium in South East Asia. Located on the fifth floor is the Paragon Cineplex and its fifteen screens, one of which is the largest in Asia with the region’s highest seating capacity to match. I didn’t get a chance to catch the Thai film that was playing on that screen as I was more preoccupied with experiencing the best in comfort and technological advances that the Paragon had to offer.
A ticket for the Paragon’s ENIGMA theater runs $75 USD, definitely the most I’ve ever paid to see a movie. The theater is situated a level above and far away from the rest of the screens thus appropriately separating us from the rabble below. The ENIGMA’s fancy lounge features private bartenders and massage chairs; food and drink are basically forced upon you. Katie and I both enjoyed fancy cocktails and appetizers before entering the actual theater and taking our seats, which were more like a two-person bed (the theater contained about 20 of them) complete with blankets and pillows; the bartenders bring you popcorn and soda once the movie begins. It was incredibly comfortable and thus Katie fell asleep about thirty minutes into John Carter, which I surprisingly enjoyed. $75 well spent, but much like the first class cabin on the airplane, it doesn’t need to be experienced more than once.
A more reasonably priced theater in the Paragon complex was the 4DX screen, which ran about $16 USD. 4DX is like a theme park ride (complete with entrance guidelines, see below) where your seat violently shakes, wind blows through the theater, water mists your face, etc. The sound is top notch and the addition of evergreen scents was charming, but after 60 minutes of being thrashed around I just wanted everything to go still so that I could watch The Hunger Games in peace (Katie loved it, I thought it was okay). This is the future of public film exhibition, a family-friendly format that will surely be embraced by American theaters 10 or 15 years down the road as a kind of final stab at getting people to fill seats. It won’t work, but it’ll surely be a hit, at least for a little while. (BTW, in that picture below I’m holding the exclusive Battleship popcorn bucket/souvenir cup; in the picture above, Katie has all that makeup on because we had just had our photos taken in traditional Thai garb, those are private)
We also caught the new Hirokazu Koreeda film I Wish at Bangkok’s arthouse-oriented Lido Theater, which cost $3 USD and didn’t contain any bells or whistles aside from assigned seating. An excellent film.