Bangkok is finally getting the indie cinema it deserves. Set to open its doors on Sep 13, Silom’s Bangkok Screening Room will screen cult films from all over the world, from directors as diverse as Apichatpong to Hitchcock, using a high-end 4K digital projector and professional surround sound. Ahead of the opening, we chat to the trio of founders, Sarinya Manamuti, 37, Nicholas Hudson-Ellis, 34, and Wongsarond Suthikulpanich, 37, about their plans to offer an alternative to the city’s blockbuster-obsessed cinemas.
What was the trigger for opening a cinema?
Sarinya: We saw a trend of giant cinemas starting to embrace quality independent films through things like the Documentary Club. But such films can’t really compete with the blockbusters for revenue. So, we thought why not start up a traditional screening room space that’s geared at showing local and emerging filmmakers, as well as the type of independent films that don’t often screen here.
What do you think about the disappearance of so many of Bangkok’s standalone cinemas?
Sarinya: With the growth of shopping malls and multiplexes, standalone cinemas just couldn’t keep up. There is too much competition. It’s obvious that there’s so much money invested in these massive cinemas that they probably have to play it safe with blockbusters to see a return.
Nicholas: These multiplexes are a trend globally, but in places like New York, Australia and Singapore it’s actually pushed the smaller, arthouse cinemas to step up their game and do something different. This can mean carefully curated programs, events for film makers or unique spaces.
Bangkok’s standalone cinemas have had a troubled past. What makes you confident you will succeed?
Wongsarond: We did a lot of research before reaching this point. Two years ago, we hosted the Open Reel Rooftop Festival and it got a good reception. We didn’t expect a lot of people to turn up, but tickets sold out and there was still more demand. As we talked to our audience and exchanged ideas, we realized there were a lot of people waiting for this kind of cinema.
Sarinya: Our mindset is, sure, we can’t stop people from downloading films to watch at home, but at least we can set up a space where we’re actually giving back to the filmmakers.
Apart from screenings, what else do you plan to do with the space?
Nicholas: We want to host events, whether it’s gatherings for filmmakers or discussions or special things, like live music, to complement a screening.
Sarinya: We’ve just launched an open film program, where we reserve one slot for an independent Thai film to screen each month. The filmmaker will get a fair share of the ticket sales. We also plan mini showcases before every feature film, when the big cinemas show all their ads. We will allow 20-30 minutes to young filmmakers who want to show their films for free.
How did you fund the project?
Wongsarond: It’s self-funded. We ran a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo but it didn’t hit the target. So we’ve paid for it all by ourselves, a couple of million baht. It’s our dream project, so we’re moving on. As I’m an interior designer at my company Armonia Living, I handled all the design work myself.
How much will you charge for tickets?
Sarinya: It’s B300 per seat and we have a membership card at B1,100, which will get you discounts of 20-percent on tickets and 10-percent at the bar. We will have two shows on weekdays and four on Saturdays and Sundays.
Bangkok Screening Room. Soi Saladaeng 1, 094-125-9906. BTS Sala Daeng exit No. 4 or MRT Lumphini’s exit No. 2. bkksr.com
Credit: Threelogy 2016