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Visit biografmuseet.dk about Danish cinemas


Relics, Ruins and the Romance of Escape

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Philip Jablon Date: 12.05.2020
"70mm is mentioned, if at all, only in passing. There are definitely a few vintage photos that show the 70mm logo, as well as some posters that have the logo, but I don't really explore it in the book. Cinerama has a few mentions too.

Relics, Ruins and the Romance of Escape

By Philip Jablon

200 pages
185 photographs
ISBN 978 616 451 023 4

£22.50 / $30

FB: River Books

Thailand’s Movie Theatres chronicles the last years and final breaths of one of the country’s most eye-catching architectural forms – the standalone cinema. From the 1950s through the 1970s, movie theatres across Thailand acted as local centres of social and cultural life. At a time when fewer homes had electricity or TVs, the movie theatre was where people came together, irrespective of class or occupation. In today’s era of shopping mall multiplexes and entertainment streamed on personal devices, the popularity of the standalone cinema has become a thing of legend.

In 2008, Philip Jablon began recording the demise of Thailand’s standalone cinemas, travelling across the country to photograph over 200 theatres. This book is the culmination of ten years of fieldwork and highlights more than 50 of the most compelling, significant and breathtaking examples.

With an introduction by Thai movie critic Kong Rithdee, the book also features a chapter on theatres in neighbouring Laos and delves behind the scenes to meet the people – ushers, projectionists, dubbers and
billboard painters – who once brought these buildings to life. Illustrated with original and vintage photographs, movie theatre paraphernalia and an exceptional selection of hand-painted movie posters, Thailand’s Movie Theatres records an irreplaceable slice of social, cultural and movie history.

Philip Jablon has been documenting standalone and vintage movie theatres in Southeast Asia since 2008. He has written extensively about these buildings, their historical role in society and the importance of preserving them. His articles and essays on the subject have appeared in the Bangkok Post, the Nation (Thailand), GQ (Thailand), Asia Sentinel, and Frontier Myanmar, among other publications. His research has been supported by grants from the Jim Thompson Foundation and the Thai Film Archive in Thailand as well as corporate sponsorship from Mingalar Cinemas in Myanmar.

When not living and breathing standalone cinemas in Southeast Asia he spends his time in his native Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, trying to figure out which old chain stores used to be movie theatres.

You can find him online at “The Southeast Asia Movie Theater

Project”: http://seatheater.blogspot.com
Philip Jablon

More in 70mm reading:

DP70s in Asia

Widescreen Worldwide

The Last Billboard Painter of Karlsruhe
The very impressive "Cleopatra" (produced in Todd-AO, 1963) 6-story tall bill-board was painted by Thailand's most famous poster painter, Tongdee Panumas. It was based upon the original US poster art by Howard Terpning. Early in his career, Tongdee emulated Terpning's painting style.

The Thai premiere of "Cleopatra" is not even listed on imdb.com!

"Relics, Ruins and the Romance of Escape" was reviewed by Mathew Scott in The Hollywood Reporter, 22 August 2019, and expanded on the story about Philip's search for old Thai cinemas:

Philip Jablon’s life was altered forever when he stumbled upon a rundown movie theater in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai back in 2006. A few months later, the building was gone.

“That what the watershed moment for me,” says Jablon. “I decided I would go from town to town. I would explore the corners of the old parts of town and look for these old buildings and take photos. Sometimes I’d find them, sometimes I wouldn’t. Sometimes I would find ones that were intact, and looked exactly like they always had. The theatres have been forgotten. In rural places people tend not to go near them as there’s a greater level of superstition with ghosts and they tend to just deteriorate. But I find it exhilarating. Going there to take a picture I know I am bringing a little known piece of Thailand to the rest of the world. Some of them are pretty cool, too.”

Jablon first visited Thailand as an exchange student in 2001. He went on to take a masters degree in sustainable development at Chiang Mai University and now splits his time about evenly each year between the kingdom and family in Philadelphia. Help with his quest came from the Thai Film Archive, enabling Jablon to launch the Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project, which has seen the photographer expand his search for old movie houses through Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. He’s found more than 300 — and more publications are in the pipeline.

“I’ve got enough material to do a book now on the movie theaters of Myanmar,” Jablon says. “So I guess I’ll just keep snooping around.”

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Updated 07-01-23