People always seem to be shocked when I tell them how often I go to the cinema in Thailand, or that I even go to the cinema. There seems to be the assumption that all of the movies are bad overdubs, or local productions – it simply couldn’t be further from reality.
Value for Money
Going to the movies is cheap, while it costs me almost $20 in New Zealand to see a new release movie, you can catch flicks at the Cinema here for as low as 100 Baht ($4 NZD), with prices maxing out at around 260 Baht (around $10) at that price you can afford to go to the cinemas whenever you like.
At our local cinema (Major Cineplex in Pinklao) I’m usually spending around 160-200 Baht per ticket for a new release film, slightly more if its in 3D.
Customs & Practices – Remember to Stand Up!
Going to the cinema is pretty much the same as anywhere else in the world, switch your phone off, behave with respect, and kick back and relax. There is however one important exception that foreigners must be aware of and respect when going to a cinema in Thailand.
The Royal Family are to be given the upmost levels of respect in Thailand, and special care must be taken to comply with rules and laws regarding this.
At the start of a movie during the trailers there will be a brief video clip to pay respect to the Royal family. You must stand up and pay your respects along with the locals, don’t talk during this time or consume food. Generally its a good idea to wait until other cinema goers sit down first so that you don’t do anything unintentionally offensive or illegal. There have been situations where foreigners and locals have gotten into trouble for not paying their respects in the appropriate way, and there are harsh penalties so make sure you are polite and respectful.
Concessions, Popcorn & Coke
This is one place where Thai cinemas fail for western movie goers. When I go to the movies I love to have a big bag of lollies (sweets or candy for you British or American readers) from the Pick’N’Mix section of the cinema.
In Thailand the concessions are limited when it comes to sweets, the best options really being Maltesers. In fact, it can be pretty damn hard to find a decent sized packet of sweets anywhere in the country (even Haribo lollies come in dangerously small packets!).
Luckily there is a solution if you are in a Major Cineplex, as these are usually located in Central Malls. Almost all of these malls have a Tops Market which carry western brands, so simply run down there before hand, grab yourself a bag of imported sweets and you are good to go.
Other options include popcorn, soft drinks, potato chips (death to anyone who eats crunchy stuff in a cinema) and Thai confectionary, that after a year I still haven’t developed a taste for.
Thais Love Their Air Conditioning
No matter where you are, if you are in a building with aircon, you’ll only ever find it on one temperature, Sub-Zero. Cinemas are no exception.
Whatever you do, don’t go lightly dressed to a cinema of you will die of exposure. The more premium style cinemas will even offer you blankets.
My advice, take a sweater and wear jeans if you don’t want to freeze to death while enjoying your movie. The obsession with air conditioning is one of those peculiarities of living in South East Asia.
The best AV Systems I’ve ever seen in a Cinema
Thai Cinemas are without a doubt, simply the best I’ve seen anywhere in the world. The seats are comfortable, the screens are massive and clear, and the sound systems are HUGE.
There is simply nowhere else in the world that gives a better audio/visual experience while watching movies in Thailand.
Finding English Movies in Bangkok
Its simple, check out the big LCD timetables you’ll find at the front of any cinema in Thailand, and look out for the word “Soundtrack”. If you see it, the movie is going to be in English (or whatever language it was filmed in otherwise its going to be in Thai. Pretty much every hollywood film that is released in major cities in Thailand (especially those with expat, or more of an educated population, the further out you go into the countryside, the less likely you’ll find a) a mall with a cinema, and b) that the movies are available in English) is available in most cinemas in English with Thai subtitles.
Gold Class, for when you want to splash out
Want something nicer? Many cinemas in Bangkok offer gold class options, either as special cinemas with a small number of seats, or more comfortable rows at the back of a cinema. For your extra cash (and lets face it, its not a lot extra – you’ll usually pay 300-800 Baht for a gold class upgrade depending on cinema) you can end up with lazy-boys, twin seater couches, extra blankets, tables for your food, menu & waiter service and more. This is great if you are watching a long film such as The Hobbit!
Scala – A Blast From the Past
If you are looking for something different I can’t recommend Scala cinemas in the Siam area enough. The movie is a literal blast from the past, with 1960s decor (even better that I was watching Gangster Squad, set in the 1950s there), handwritten tickets and staff all wearing yellow sports jackets and blazers. I’ve heard that staff basically have a job there for life, so expect to see some fairly elderly ushers and staff.
Very popular with the hipster set and students from nearby Chulalongkorn University. Nearby Lido is another place to see more independent and arthouse type films.
How do I find a Cinema?
This is easy, you’ll find one in almost every mall – heck, where I live there is a cinema complex across the road from a cinema complex (What is it with Thailand and doing this? I see the same thing with 7/11s and petrol stations!). Look out for chains such as Major Cineplex, SF Cinema, brands such as Imax, and independents such as Scala & Lido.