Alternative cinemas are making a comeback in Bangkok. Here are the six best places to catch your favorite indie flicks on the big screen.
After 15 years of screening arthouse flicks on the RCA party strip, House has moved to Samyan Mitrtown, where it boasts three screening rooms—with the same black leather chairs and wooden floors as the original—and shows independent films from around the world. Until Oct 31, the cinema is running a “Film Buffet” with over 150 indie films for members to binge-watch, including Spike Jonze’s Her, the Thai coming-of-age dark comedy Marry Is Happy, Marry Is Happy and South Korean zombie action thriller Train to Busan. Other perks: popcorn in three flavors—sweet, salty and cheese (B70 for small; B100 for large)—and a coffee corner courtesy of Some Time Blue.
Films you can expect: Mostly Thai and international indie cuts with a sprinkling of mainstream hits. This is also the place to go during Oscar season—in recent years, House has screened Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, Barry Jenkin’s Moonlight and Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite.
Tickets: B160 per person.
5/F, Samyan Mitrtown, Rama 4 Rd., 098-869-0997. Open daily 11am-9:30pm. MRT Sam Yan. fb.com/housesamyan
Opened in late 2016, this 50-seat theater aims to screen only independent movies from emerging filmmakers, as well as indie flicks that normally wouldn’t get screened at the blockbuster-obsessed mall cinemas. That means classics directed by Fritz Lang, Stanley Kubrick, Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock; and films from celebrated Thai directors Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Pen-ek Ratanaruang. Apart from screenings, the space is also used to host exhibitions, filmmaker meet-ups, live music and more. There’s a small bar serving craft beer and wine, too.
Films you can expect: A vast catalog of Hollywood cult favorites like Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, Fargo and The Big Lebowski; modern Thai classics like The Story of Nampu and Mon-rak Transistor; and documentaries on the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Andre Leon Talley.
Tickets: B300 per person.
2/F, Woof Pack Bldg., Saladaeng Soi 1, 090-906-3888. Open Tue-Fri 3:30pm-midnight; Sat-Sun 11am-11:45pm. BTS Saladaeng. bkksr.com
Siam Square’s Lido cinema was officially reborn as Lido Connect—a creative space for live performances, temporary exhibitions and pop-up markets—on Aug 1 this year. While it still has its three original screens, only Lido 1 remains a movie theater. Anyone who remembers the crumbling state of the original will be pleased to know this theater is equipped with improved features and facilities that make it a lot more enjoyable to catch the award-winning movies, independent films and documentaries being put on by The Documentary Club. There’s also a store selling T-shirts, totes and other knick-knacks, not to mention popcorn for moviegoers.
Films you can expect: These guys really go hard on the nostalgia. Past showings include cult favorites like the acclaimed American comedy Little Miss Sunshine, British black comedy Trainspotting and the ‘80s Thai romance Prik Kee Noo Kub Moo Ham. This is also a great place to catch up on Asia’s award-winning contemporary films, like the Japanese drama Shoplifters and South Korean psychological drama Burning.
Tickets: B150 per person.
256 Rama 1 Rd., 062-929-8685. Open daily 10am-10pm. BTS Siam. lidoconnect.com
Founded by Ing Kanjanavit, director of Shakespeare Must Die, and Kathmandu Gallery founder Manit Sriwanichpoom, this 48-seat theater is a space for art and dialogue as much as it is an independent cinema. Set in a refurbished brutalist building on Sukhumvit Soi 43, the cinema promises some of the finest flicks from the underground and hosts special programs and festivals, as well as talks and discussions with film directors. Those include “Amazing Stoner Movie Fest” and “Filipino Miracle”—a talk that explored independent Filipino films. After your movie, check out the gallery space, which showcases photography and painting from emerging regional artists.
Films you can expect: The kind of indie gems you won’t find elsewhere. We’re talking short films from Latin America like the Peruvian The Eyes of the Journey, Mingmongkol Sonakul’s Thai independent drama I-San Special and the French 1963 crime film Le Doulos.
Tickets: B160 per person.
43 Sukhumvit Soi 43, 097-929-5366. Open Wed-Sun 1pm-9pm. BTS Phrom Phong. fb.com/cinemaoasis.bk
Named after British pioneer of motion pictures William Friese-Greene, this shop-house turned private film club is a favorite among filmmakers, film students, film buffs and industry insiders. Head up to the third floor and you’ll find an intimate nine-seat cinema—complete with plush, proper cinema seats and a big screen—where you can sip on a beer or cocktail while catching nightly classic and cult film screenings. A membership also grants you access to a library filled with film-related books, best enjoyed in the arms of the sofa on the second-floor mezzanine.
Films you can expect: Most weeks feature a theme—for example, Classic Hitchcock (Rear Window, North By Northwest, Strangers on a Train), Hong Kong Greats (Chungking Express, City on Fire, Shaolin Soccer) and Troubled Youth (Lord of the Flies, Donnie Darko, Suburbia).
Membership price: B400 per person
259/6 Sukhumvit Soi 22 (next to Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel), 087-000-0795. Open Tue-Sun 6pm-11pm. BTS Phrom Phong. fgc.in.th
The iconic Scala cinema in Siam Square remains the same Art Deco relic we all know and love (although its survival seems to perpetually hang in the balance). Built in 1967, Scala was the most luxurious theater of its time. Now it’s the last standalone single-screen cinema in Thailand. The space might be timeworn, but the grandeur hasn’t faded. Enter through an atrium with a vaulted ceiling and glittering chandelier to find a 1,000-seat cinema; the retro ticket booths, cheap popcorn and staff sporting signature canary yellow jackets are all part of the charm. While the choice of movies can be pretty basic, catching a film at this old-timer is always a special experience.
Films you can expect: Hollywood blockbusters and independent flicks like American drama Manchester by the Sea, Japanese coming-of-age drama Kids on the Slope and the animated biographical drama Loving Vincent. The cinema also hosts screenings of Hollywood classics, with past showings including The Sound of Music, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Casablanca.
Tickets: B120-140 per person.
Siam Square Soi 1, 02-251-2861. Open daily 10am-midnight. BTS Siam. apexsiam-square.com