By Ananta Thitanat
Thailand | In Thai with English subtitles | 2022 | 65 min | PG13 (Some Coarse Language)
The Scala Theatre was one of Bangkok’s three great stand-alone cinema theatres built in the 1960s. Their construction was part of placemaking efforts to attract more visitors to the Siam Square shopping district. The success of the first two theatres, Siam and Lido, inspired the building of a third theatre with Art Deco-inspired architectural features that would make it the best in Thailand. Ironically, the project was so successful that land in the area became the most expensive in the country, and ticket revenues from screenings could no longer support the lease. Siam and Lido gradually closed their doors, leaving Scala as the last of the stand-alone theatres still operating in 2020. Despite surviving many industry shifts, including the advent of cable television and streaming service, public calls to gazette the building for conservation fell through, and the Scala was demolished in 2021.
This documentary chronicles the Scala’s last days, amidst pro-democracy protests and the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the conversations of the workers dismantling building fixtures and the film director’s commentary, we learn about the generations of employees and their families whose lives were inextricably connected with the spaces. By demolishing its iconic chandeliers, wall panelling and film projector, the glorious era of picture palaces in Thailand is irrevocably changed, and an important piece of collective memory has faded away.
Scala premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival (2022).
Ananta Thitanat (b. 1982, Thailand) grew up in the Siam Theatre, where her father worked as a film programmer. The military crackdown on the Red Shirts protests in 2010 inspired Ananta and Abhichon Rattanabhayon to start making their first short documentary together that year. Since then, she has always worked with Abhichon as assistant director and cinematographer, making documentaries Ghost (2020) and Kembali (2021). Scala is her first feature-length film.