On May 31, 2018 Bangkok continued down the path of “improvement” and lost another local landmark: Lido Cinema. Like watching the wildebeests stampede down the gorge in that one, terrifying scene in the Lion King, the loss of Lido is terrible, but as the way things are in Bangkok, inevitable.
Lido Cinema was one of the oldest operating movie theaters in Bangkok, as part of the Apex theater group with its sister theaters, Scala and Siam. Lido was running at a loss, but it continued because the owners felt that everyone involved, from the employees to the regulars, were like family.
Just shy of its 50th birthday this year, the theater ran as usual, but the attendance numbers were probably more reminiscent of its heyday than of its more recent audience draws. The main floor was filled with moviegoers, heartbroken fans, and a few reporters and camera crews.
I have no deep emotional connection to the theater. I’ve lived in Bangkok for 7 years and I knew about this place because my old office was in the same building. But unlike that one, terrifying scene in the Lion King, I can’t shut my eyes, hit the fast-forward button on the remote, and wait 10 seconds for the tape (yes, VHS tape) to let me never see Mufasa die again. I can’t ignore it because it’s a part of a larger conversation of where Bangkok is heading. As the new comes in to take the place of the old, it's important to be mindful about how these new structures tend to add more fuel to the loss of identity and to the march away from the city's once-unique spirit.
So where do we go from here?
We have to accept that change is inevitable.
Developers and money aside, places do eventually wear down and lose their ability to stand on their own. But when its time to (re)build, it presents an opportunity to improve, adapt, and evolve. Our theater could use its dead, mangled, trampled, trampled, trampled carcass* as a chance for the growth of something truly constructive and beneficial for Bangkok. No matter how small the likelihood, there is a possbility for Lido to be celebrated, remembered, and evolve into something better.
Lido also reminds us to keep supporting what we love, whether that’d be a person, people, or place because that shows affection, demand, and appreciation. So please, if you’re in Bangkok, around Siam, and are in the mood for a movie, visit Scala, now the last remaining stand-alone theater in Bangkok. (Siam Theater burned down in 2010.) Thankfully, her lease has been extended to 2021, but you never know. Change is inevitable.
*Ok, being overly dramatic with the Lion King analogy. Even though the theater is closed, there are still businesses that are still running in the building.
Opened June 27, 1968 as a single screen with 1,000 seats (eventually changed to a 3 screen layout after a fire)
Screened “The Guns of San Sebastian” on opening day
Property owned by the Tansacha family, land owned by Chulalongkorn University
First in Thailand to use a Dolby Digital sound system
For more reading and to see pictures of Lido when it first opened, check out these links:
"Scala and Lido are safe for now but Thailand's standalone cinemas face uncertain future" 19 July 2017. BK Magazine.
"Bangkok Reminisces, Bids Fond Farewell to Lido Cinema" 24 April 2018. Khaosod English.
"Goodbye, Lido" 25 May 2018. The Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project.
"Lido to close, but Scala could be spared as Bangkok's standable cinemas face demolition" 08 Jan 2018. BK Magazine.
"1968-2018: Tears, Feels as Lido Takes a Bow" 1 June 2018. Khaosod English.
"Last Call: Lido Chinemas Adds Seats for Final Shows" 25 May 2018. Khaosod English.
"Curtain Call: Lido's 50 Year Run to End in May" 5 Jan 2018. Khaosod English.
"Iconic cinemas Lido shutters after 50 years" 2 June 2018. Pattaya Mail.
"A sad farewell to an old friend" 29 May 2018. The Nation.
"Fade to dark: Moviehouse legend Lido plays silent films in last-show tribute" 1 June 2018. Khaosod English.