From 40 baht in Bangkok's oldest theatre to 3,000 baht in the mysterious 'Enigma' Cinema, how much are you willing to pay to watch the same movie and what do you really get for your money?
Watching a movie has changed tremendously in the past decades... Not long ago a theatre would vary in size and design but would just be more or less a film projected on a large screen and everyone was happy with that. The first sign of serious change appeared when all these new fancy sounds systems started to blast us: Stereo, Dolby, DTS and the like, and suddenly everyone was in awe. From this moment on, watching a movie became an immersive experience that never stopped evolving. Then screens became bigger, brighter larger and but apart from an evolution from wooden seats to velvet seats, not much was really offered to poor movie viewers, while the length of films became on average a lot longer. Finally, real comfort has been sent to us and VIP cinemas are a gift from Hollywood heaven... if you can afford them of course!
The 'Normal' Experience
Usually located at the top floor of large shopping malls, the 'classic' Thai cinema room varies in size and design but the function is more or less always the same: You are here to watch a movie. Period. The feeling is quite similar to flying in the economy class of giant Airbus, but with a larger amount of seats per row. This means less leg room, hearing or smelling your neighbour, fighting for the armrest and being kicked in the back by the restless kid behind you. Going to the toilet is an embarrassing moment you will try to postpone in vain as theaters in Thailand are known to be so cold, you will have to go whether you like it or not. Just be ready for a lot of 'sorry, sorry, sorry...' to reach the far aisle in the dark.
The IMAX Experience
IMAX (standing for 'Image Maximum') marks the arrival of a new generation of entertainment with a film twice the size of a conventional film (from the classic 35 mm to 70 mm) allowing these gigantic screens you certainly all have experienced (the screen itself measures 22 m × 16.1 m on average). It's so gigantic that if you have to read the subtitles, your eyes won't be able to capture the movie and the subtitles at the same time. Because of its size, IMAX could orignally only handle short movies or documentaries and it was only in 2000 that a full length movie was played in IMAX: Fantasia 2000 from Disney. Since then, blockbuster movies shot for IMAX have flourished and are very popular with Hollywood superproduction designed to swallow the spectator into the movie... To immerse the viewer even more, 3D was introduced but opinions are seriously divided about its effectiveness, as it takes a good 20 minutes to get used to the glasses. As of September 2012, there are 697 IMAX theatres in 52 countries.
4D-Plex Theatre - Movies on Steroids
4D-Plex is the latest in movie entertainment, making the good, old and controversial 3D look like a flat and rather boring experience. 4D requires the 3D glasses of course, but the fun comes with the moving and vibrating seats synchronized with action scenes of the movie. That's not new will you say, but wait, there is more! The really twisted features are the 'Environment Effects' as they call it: wind, and a spray of water on your face during raining scenes, fog, strobes, lasers and even bubbles for the romantic scenes... how delightfully cheesy.
With additional speakers in your seat, the scary guy can now whisper directly into your ear and you can even feel the rats running around with the 'leg tickler', definitely a freaky sensation. Let's not forget the 'back and butt kicker'! Paying 400 baht to get your butt kicked is priceless! And best of all are the synchronized smells, with more than 1000 scents. Here is a quick overview of some scents applied to movie scenes: Rose Garden > Flowers, Flower Shopper > Mountains,Pacific Breeze > Ocean, White Gardenia > Women’s Perfume, Coffee 2000 > Coffee, Raspberry > Sweet Food, Gun Powder > Guns, War, Burning Rubber > Fire, Tires Skidding.
Anyone saw a zombie movie lately? We'd like a full report on the olfactive experience!
Bangkok Airways Blue Ribbon Screen - Fly your Movie Business Class - 1,500 baht for 2
If a normal movie theater is equivalent to flying economy class in a humongous airplane, the analogy works even better here, since Bangkok Airways took over the Nokia Silver Screen and renamed it the 'Blue Ribbon Screen'. For a mere 1,500 baht for 2 (all seats are couple seats, you can't book just one) you have access to a fancy and colourful waiting lounge where free drinks, wines and beers are served accompanied by some cute petit cakes. The ticket even includes a 15 minute foot massage if you are a bit early or shopped too long! Once the movie starts, move to one of the two rooms where each of the few couple seats is set in by an alcove to isolate viewers from their neighbours. Naughty, naughty. Seats recline just like La-Z-Boy and come with a comfy pillow and a silky blanket. Waiters come and take your order if you want some more drinks but this second round will be charged. This is great value for money and you should experience it for a movie you really want to watch, just don't fall asleep in the comfort of your bed, and hope that your neighbour doesn't start snoring either!
Enigma Theatre - 3,000 baht
If the 'Bangkok Airways Blue Ribbon Screen' is the equivalent to flying business class, then Enigma is exactly what flying first class would be. Paying 3,000 baht to watch a movie is the ultimate show off in a town full of social contrasts. Of course you get a little something extra for that price: Sofas with plenty of cushions and some extra food before the show in a ultra posh lobby, but most of all you get the bragging rights! You can now go around and state 'I watched a movie at Enigma last night, it was OK' and everyone will look at you with awe and envy... just act casual, pretending you do this every weekend, and not like you just burned a big hole in your pocket!
Some people want to show off with the latest and greatest experiences, but let's be honnest, some of the high-tech cinemas lack soul. All the machinery and gadgets can't hide that the essentially look like shiny black boxes. If you want a cinema trip with a slice of history then check of the Scala in Siam Square. This cinema was built in the 60s and they've kept the beautiful art deco architecture in perfect nick. The cheery chappy in a yellow blazer and bowtie has also been there since it opened. Just because the experience is vintage it doesn't mean the screen is, the Scala have kept their audio visual equipment up to date. The same can't be said for the seats though, one bonus modern theatres have is precious leg room. Read More...
In a world of hi-tech movies and state-of-the-art technology, we often forget how special our local cinemas were. Movie theaters had a soul and a personality, each of them was different and going to the movie was a little event, not yet casual entertainment. Today almost all theaters are located inside gigantic shopping malls, but only a few independent cinemas are still alive...
Finding Daokhanong Multiplex is a bit of a challenge, such gems are closing one after the other, not able to cope with competition or not able to upgrade fast enough to satisfy ever demanding customers. The land price makes it then an easy target for developers. Daokhanong Multiplex is still a true theater playing recent movies for only 40 baht, but how long can this last? Read More...