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Tom at Toho

November 14, 2016

Movies are great escape from daily turbulences called life.

People would stare at me when I said I saw three movies in a day, in three different locations. But that was Surabaya in the end of the 90s.

Bangkok

Scala Siam

Scala Theater in Siam Square. Bangkok’s most elegant and oldest cinema in the heart of the city. The newest and most glamorous cineplex is just across the street, inside Paragon Mall.

Cinema hopping in Bangkok, in the wake of mobile Internet (2008-2009), was a lot of fun as it required finding cinemas that would actually screen movies in a language you understand and planning your ways to and from the cinema, which may involve assorted transportation mode. The IMAX theatre was huge and at 300 THB (about US$10) it was a steal (this was 2009 price. When Jakarta finally had an IMAX cinema a few years after 2009, it costs similar but with smaller screen). Independent, foreign, and festival-winner movies have its own community and cult viewers. Although the cineplex, RCA House, is rather far from the city grid (took me an hour by train, subway, and an ojek ride to get there).

Before a movie starts, apart from regular array of coming-soon trailers, you would be required to stand up and pay respect for the Thai King. There is a mandatory documentary of the King with The King’s Anthem playing in the background. And if you don’t stand up, you may end up at “Bangkok Hilton”. Don’t mess with this one.

Yangon

Nay Pyi Taw Cinema Hall Yangon

Nay Pyi Taw Cinema Hall, Sule Pagoda Road, Bangkok. Next to Sakura Tower and within walking distance from Sule Pagoda, the zero kilometer of Yangon, Myanmar.

The most interesting theatre I went was in Yangon. It was Bond’s Casino Royale. Having seen the same movie a few months before in a glitzy, sleek cineplex in Bangkok, I felt like being transported back to the 70s. The biggest screen in Yangon is centrally located and it’s a single screen with folding chair. People would yell and scream if they like or do not like the scene (Myanmar’s neighboring country is also famous for this traits). They brought snacks and their favorite was roasted salted peanuts in shells. As the lights went on when the movie ended, my sympathy went for the cleaning service.. Let’s not ask whether the copy (of the movie) was legal or not..

Tokyo

I splurged on Tom Cruise’ own production and franchise sequel in what probably planet Earth’s most expensive cineplex: Toho Shinjuku. Who in their sane mind would pay 22 friggin’ bucks to see Jack the Reacher (post Trump winning that is) in an IMAX theater (which screen was rather small)? Perhaps because the zen-self in me wanted to have a few hours of quick nap and shelter from the chilly November breeze.

Toho Cineplex Shinjuku Tokyo

Toho Cinema in Shinjuku often screens Hollywood movies in English with Japanese subtitles in kanji (and some hiragana/katakana). This is where the famous Godzilla statue also located. Cinema Qualité, a few hundred meters across Toho building (to the direction of Takashimaya Department Store) often screens foreign movies.

I’m not sure whether they slowly sucked on their popcorns and let the kernels melt in their mouth or else. Not a single chew. Not a single crunch. Not a single slurping sip (except from the guy next to me who gave in after the second half — who wouldn’t, BTW). Not a single exhale! I wasn’t sure whether they understand the subtle humor of an American Bond (Reacher) handling a millennial teen or not. Perhaps it didn’t translate well into their culture. The movie itself was pretty quiet (D’oh!).

Nevertheless, that was the most intensely quiet movie experience I’ve ever been. Still want more? 90% of the viewers were still sitting down until the lights went on at the end of the credit. Only those sitting down along the aisles left earlier. Speaking of Japanese and their strong adherence to rules and regulations..

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