Dining at the Forgotten Movie Theaters of Bangkok


One Morning I went to Jok Prince for breakfast. It's considered one of Bangkok's best congee shops. When I was finished I looked down the alleyway and decided it seemed quite interesting. Wandering down, I soon came across what looked like an abandoned cinema. I thought it seemed pretty cool that this theater was just sitting there hidden in the back of a maze of alleys, so I walked around this little hidden neighbourhood and took some photos. When I got back to my guest house a wanted to see if I could find out anything more about this place, and came across a blog called 
The Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project
Holy cow, what an interesting blog! It turns out there are many abandoned and re-purposed movie theaters all over Southeast Asia. I went to see a few in Bangkok, and found in every place, some entrepreneur had set up shop and was selling food.
The following is a run down of some of the places I went to and what you can expect to eat there if you visit: 



1. Oscar Theater

 adventurefood derelict urban exploration


 Of all the places I visited on this list, The Oscar Theater wins the prize for horror movie creepiness. Walking back from the street you are faced with a monolithic wall with an entrance that leads into darkness. Once inside, a concrete and steel shell engulfs you. A grand lobby of what must have been a huge and impressive movie theater. Cats are lying around everywhere. At the far end is a solitary escalator leading to the upper floors. After taking a few photos, we started up the escalator and it became apparent we weren't alone. Glass started smashing around us, and a disheveled woman came out of the shadows and started screaming and throwing bottles. We took the hint and backed off.  Things are going on here. People kept appearing out of various doors. According to the SEA Movie Project there are a lot a massage parlours and sex places in the area and prostitutes use this theater as a makeshift changing room. It also seems like a convenient place for drug dealing and who knows what else. Outside a stall that serves various soups including tripe tom yum, has tables to eat at right up to the mouth of the theater. Overall the atmosphere is pretty hostile. I would not recommend showing up at night, you are not welcome here. The tripe soup was good and quite interesting. I've never had offal tom yum. I'm not sure it's a common dish. We were charged 100 baht for the soup and a pepsi, which is totally over priced, but we didn't argue. It seemed we had caused enough disruption as it was.



abandoned theaters bangkok adventurefood derelict urban exploration














7/10
FOOD
10/10
ATMOSPHERE
3/10
SERVICE










2. Paris Theater

abandoned theaters bangkok adventurefood derelict urban exploration


abandoned theaters bangkok adventurefood derelict urban explorationThe Paris Theater has the look of a place that was really trendy in the 1980's. I can envision how busy and exciting it was at, lets say, the premiere of E.T. or something. Ornate mouldings and fading glossy gold paint make this place really cool. I had absolutely no problem wandering around several floors, and the few people I came across completely ignored me. underneath the main staircase are large baskets full of product for the morning market that sets up across the street. There are a lot of nooks and crannies to explore, with empty poster cases and coming soon marquees scattered around. I loved the lighting and the colours. A lone som tam cart stands just inside the entrance. There are several stacked plastic stools and folding tables stored here and there, so I assume more vendors show up later in the day. Apparently this neighbourhood has a lot of migrant workers from Laos, so some pretty authentic Issan style food should be expected.  The woman running the food cart was friendly enough, but communication was minimal. I ordered a plain som tam, but dried fish and squid was available to add to it. The som tam was as spicy and delicious as one would expect from such a local and out of the way place. Too spicy for me to finish in fact. I needed a big bowl of sticky rice or something to tone it down. At 25 baht it was a great deal, but I wish some of the other vendors had been there so I could get a more full dining experience.

on



6/10
FOOD
9/10
ATMOSPHERE
6/10
SERVICE




3. Prince Theater




 urban explorationThe Prince Theater is located in the back alleys behind Jok Prince. Although the old ticket booth is pretty cool, its the surrounding alleyways that are most interesting. The Prince is central to what is know as a trok. A small neighbourhood of mostly wooden houses accessed by alleys and laneways that exist hidden away from the main streets. The community is tight knit, and walking though the narrow lanes sometimes feels like walking through someone's living room. Which it kind of is, so be respectful with photography and such. From the entrance on the Sri Wiang side of the trok you can see the stained glass sign of the Prince Theater still standing. They are in the process of renovating this theater, so I was able to take a couple of pictures of the inside. It's mostly a huge mess, but the wooden lattice work for the screen is still there. I don't know how long The Prince will remain in this state. There was a lot of equipment and supplies around, and the workers looked busy and determined. I don't think they are tearing it down. It looks like renovation work, so maybe they will turn it into something cool. As I said at the beginning Jok Prince is well renowned for it's delicious congee. I had a bowl with pork meatballs and heart. It was just the way I like it. Lots of fresh ginger and a raw egg hidden in the center to stir in and enrich the soup. The people speak English, and getting what you want is straight forward. When I started taking pictures everyone began joking around and doing funny poses. The other alley under the Prince sign are a couple of stirfry places with tables set up along the theater wall. I haven't tried them yet, but they look good.
























8/10
FOOD
8/10
ATMOSPHERE
9/10
SERVICE








4. Chinatown Rama

abandoned theater




The Chinatown Rama is an interesting situation in that it's not an abandoned theater, movies still show here. It's just that very few people seem to know or care that it's still functioning. A full kitchen is set up in front of the current and coming attractions posters, and if you make your way past the tables and chairs, there is a ticket booth with a guy sitting there waiting for people to come in and buy tickets. I'm sure you could walk in and buy a ticket for the show right now, but my understanding is the movies are not why the almost exclusively older male clientele go here. This is definitely a sex cruising pick up place. You can read about the guy who writes SEA Movie Theater Project's experience and description of the inside here: http://seatheater.blogspot.com/2009/11/chinatown-rama-sri-meuang-theater.html. Or if you want an extremely explicit description of what goes on here, check out the comments on this blog post: http://christianpfc.blogspot.com/2014/10/special-cinemas-3-chinatown-rama.html . Wow. I really don't think any of the tourists in this very busy spot have any idea what's going on here. The curved wooden staircase and details give the place a real feel of faded grandeur. It would make a fantastic movie set. Once again several cats seem to always guard the stairs, but I didn't have the guts to buy a ticket and enter anyway. The restaurant serves kuay jap a soup that features "carpet roll noodles" one of the more rare noodle types in Thailand. The pork broth is incredibly rich and flavourful and you can choose from a variety of pork parts, offal, egg, and vegetables to add to the dish. It was pretty special and I will have another bowl next time I'm in the area.

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9/10
FOOD
9/10
ATMOSPHERE
8/10
SERVICE







5. Laem Thong Theater





Laem Thong Theater is a cinema that I believe was recently still functioning. A smaller  place most likely from to 70's, it's not as impressive as The Paris or The Oscar, but has an interesting vibe.  It's odd out of the way residential location means there is no real reason for a foreigner to be here, and the strange collection of people milling around makes me think this place has some kind hidden alternative function. No one comes here for no reason, so the fact that some of the men were getting a bit overly friendly while I was eating my stir-fryed noodles didn't really surprise me. The dining area for the food cart takes up the space around the ticket booth. I'd love to tell you the food was fantastic, and I had found some hidden gem, but it was very average. The signage is pretty cool, but I don't see any real reason to come here unless you want a small side trip on your way to Klong Toey market, which is one of the best wet markets to visit in Bangkok.


























6/10
FOOD
6/10
ATMOSPHERE
6/10
SERVICE




5. Sala Chaloem Thani




abandoned theaters bangkok adventurefood derelict urban explorationabandoned theaters bangkok adventurefood derelict urban exploration
 The Sala Chaloem Thani was Thailand's first purpose built cinema. Silent movies started showing here in 1918 with a larger brass band providing the music before and during the films. Although it is a large and impressive  wooden structure, it's completely cordoned off and there is no way to get inside or admire it in detail. Hopefully one day it will be restored, as it is genuinely an interesting Thai heritage site.  The Sala Chaloem Thani, along with the Nang Loeng covered market sit at the center of another trok neighborhood, the Nang Loeng Trok. This market and the surrounding old shop house restaurants are the real reason to come here. The selection of quality food and desserts available here make this area one of the better foodie destinations in Bangkok. Neua Tun Loeng Restaurant is a great choice for beef noodle soup located right across from the theater. Khao Gaeng Rattana is a popular place inside the market for ready made curries and stir-fry dishes. Walking through the various alleys and side streets you can find many places for an iced coffee or a snack.





9/10
FOOD
8/10
ATMOSPHERE
8/10
SERVICE




Additional Photos

Oscar Theater


Cat at Oscar Theater

Entrance to Laem Thong Theater

Sala Chaloem Thani

Paris Theater

Paris Theater
urban exploration
Eating at the Oscar Theater
Som Tam Stand at Paris Theater

Restaurant Along the Side of Prince Theater


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