An Old-School Art House Cinema Experience In Bangkok

Just like any other city, Bangkok’s movie scene is dominated by swanky state-of-the-art multiplexes, mostly located inside shopping malls. 

Not all is lost; there are two barely-surviving old-school art house cinema in Bangkok: Lido Theater (ลิโด) and Scala Theater (สกาล่า). Both cinemas are run by APEX, and smacked right in the middle of Siam Square. Who would have thought that such old-school cinemas still exist in the heart of Bangkok? But not for long though. They are in the danger of extinction, as they are on the verge of being demolished, to make way for new shopping malls. Their current lease from Chulalongkorn is until 2018, so their fate is still hanging in their air.

Both cinemas were built in the 1960s, before I was even born! Scala is the remaining single-screen theater now. After a fire at the Lido complex in the 1990s, it was rebuilt from a single-screen theater into a three-screen multiplex and shopping plaza.

On a weekday afternoon, waiting for bf to finish work, I decided to watch a movie at one of these old-fashioned cinemas to kill time. My oh my, this solo movie outing brings me to those days I was a kid back in KL, when cinema was housed in a building by itself. Odeon Kepong and Pavilion Kepong, those were the cinemas I grew up with.

Showtime
Showtimes at Scala and Lido

The wonderful thing about Lido is that they show non-mainstream movies! Not many friends share my fascination for ‘non-mainstream’ movies. I have ‘dragged’ many to watch such movies in KL, those were the days. If you are not a fan of Indie movies, they show Hollywood movies too, such as Finding Dory, The Conjuring 2 and Now You See Me 2.

 

Meoww...
Meoww…

It was a no-brainer for me to choose made in Japan’sIf Cats Disappeared From The World” (世界から猫が消えたなら, Sekai kara Neko ga Kieta nara) to commemorate my first movie experience, at an old-fashion cinema in Bangkok. “What will you give up from life, which each will buy you one extra day to live? As these things are erased, your connections to some of the most important people in your life will also be taken from you. How will you choose?” A movie that keeps you thinking, beyond the 1 hour 43 minutes of screening time.

 

Ticketing booth
Ticketing booth

At Lido, a Thai woman was manning the ticketing booth. No English spoken, but I managed to buy ticket easily.

100 / 120 baht tix
100 / 120 baht tix

2-price tier ticket: 100 baht (approx RM 11) for the rows  closer to screen (red), or 120 baht (approx RM 14) for further away (green). So much cheaper than the SF cinemas at CentralWorld, priced at 190 baht to 210 baht (RM 22-24)!

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Red 120, Green 140 for Fanday
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Fanday (แฟนเดย์..แฟนกันแค่วันเดียว)
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Fanday (แฟนเดย์..แฟนกันแค่วันเดียว)

Update Sept 2016: 120 baht for red rows and 140 baht for green rows, for Fanday (แฟนเดย์..แฟนกันแค่วันเดียว), because the movie is longer than 2 hours.

Old-school tix!
Old-school tix!

Don’t you love the paper tickets?

Lido 1
Lido 1
Lido 2
Lido 2

 

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Lido 3

While waiting to be allowed into the cinema hall, I walked around the small cinema. There are only 3 cinema screens at Lido. Notice the color differences? Red for 1, green for 2 and pink for 3. They still have old school style and lighting … where else can you see transparent glass door at cinema, completes with curtain?

5 baht for toilet
5 baht for toilet

Is this the only cinema that still charges for toilet? 5 bath to use the toilet, but I saw a girl flashing her movie ticket stub, and walked in without paying. So perhaps it’s free for moviegoers?

Concession booth
A small concession stand
40 baht salty popcorn
40 baht salty popcorn

There is a small concession stand located outside Lido 2. 40 bath popcorn, what a steal … but taste-wise, it wasn’t great.

Yellow-jacket usher
Yellow-jacket with bow tie usher
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Checking tix

The ushers are dressed in bright yellow jackets with bow tie, how quaint! One outside the hall, another one inside with flashlight to show you to your seat.

Wide hall
Wide hall

I was in Lido 2, which can accommodate up 243 seats. The hall is wide … only 8 rows, but up to 20-30 seats per row. I was seated next to two local Thai boys, probably in their late teens or early twenties. I was surprised that there were quite a fair bit of youngsters at this cinema, probably because of the cheap ticket price.

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Pay homage to the Thai King

As usual, we had to stand up to pay homage to the King, when the royal anthem was played. There was also a video showing the emergency exit, in case of fire … well, that’s because they suffered a fire once!

 

Silent Film Festival
Silent Film Festival

I noticed that there was a piano inside the hall! I later found out that it is for the Silent Film Festival in Thailand .. silent film screening, accompanied by live piano performances! 

Overall, it was a pleasant experience .. minus the crowd. Definitely an off the beaten track that I recommend in Bangkok.

Next up .. the one and only remaining single-screen Scala Theater .. stay tuned!

 

Apex Siam Square (Lido and Scala)
Rama 1 Road
BTS: Siam
Lido: +6622526498
Scala: +6622512861
Website: www.ApexSiam-Square.com

Writer

Travel opens up a whole new world, which is cliche but true. I am a strong advocate for independent and solo travel. I was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia but now live in Bangkok, Thailand, resulted from a chance encounter in 2009 with my why-are-you-Thai bf. I am now split between two countries. One country for my bf, another for the family, for the occasional weekend together.