Scala Cinema, Bangkok
A movie theatre with a retro art deco twist
Located right in the heart of one of the busiest business areas of Bangkok, this is not your typical definition of an “Off the Beaten Path” location. Although central, this retro movie theatre is often overlooked by passing visitors being distracted by all the modern flashy lights and mega-malls which have neighboured the old relic. The Scala Cinema in Siam Square offers a much more modest movie experience compared to most of the new super theatres found in the area.
You can tell that you’re in for a special treat as soon as you walk in the door, found under the old classical light up sign. The Scala Cinema greets you with a huge domed ceiling, ornately decorated with large art deco bronzed flowers. There are double circular staircases, winding up to the second floor under a massive chandelier that hangs from the high ceiling to just above head height. Once you’ve reached the second floor, pillars from the ceiling descend down to the floor, almost creating a cathedral feeling. Who said going to the movies can’t be a religious experience?! You will see the old school ticket booths to your right, next to a large wooden concession stand, both art deco in design. The ticket master writes your seat number on a stub and tears it from the book to assign you to your seat. This old school style has been preserved, as everything else in the Scala Cinema has, since it’s opening date.
Upon approaching the single cinema, a ticket collector awaits you with a fancy yellow jacket, a bow tie and a classic Thai smile. Upon entering the Scala Cinema’s theatre, the establishment continues to impress. Inside, there are what appears to be about 1000 seats with red velvet upholstery. The seats wrap around the theatre giving everyone optimal viewing in an old fashioned way.
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
Easy to find, the cinema is located just five minutes’ walk from the BTS station at Siam. Come down the stairs on the opposite side of the road to Paragon and head towards Siam Square Soi 1. From the outside the cinema looks old-world, there are no digital displays here, and the name of the film showing is displayed in red letters, each put up by hand.
BTS Station: Siam
Address: Scala Theatre, Siam Square Soi 1, Rama I Rd
Do – Activities & Attractions
Stay – Accommodation
Eat – Restaurants
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
You can check the current movie listing and showtimes here: APEX Siam Square
Safety – Possible risks
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Pay – How much does it cost?
A ticket costs 100 baht ($3.30 USD), and a small box of popcorn will only set you back 30 baht ($1 USD). Most snacks available are below average prices, though you won’t find the same large selection of the modern theatres. Sometimes less is more, and personally I’d be quite happy with the old school popcorn/soda combo.
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Reality Check – Be Aware
This really is a unique, nostalgic experience, and one that is exceptionally rare in Thailand’s rapidly changing landscape. The Scala does only have one modest screen, and so the choice of movies is limited to what is playing that night. This means they must change the movies fairly quickly and they rarely last more than a few days in a row. You must stay up to date with the listings so that you don’t miss your window to see the movie you wish to. That said, the Scala Cinema also plays a lot of indie and foreign films, straying away from the mainstream Thai and Hollywood playlist, which brings in a huge variety of cool unique films not found in most theatres. The old seats are a little smaller with less leg space than the newer theatres – something to keep this in mind before choosing a 3 hour film. The prices are below anything you’ll find elsewhere, especially in central Bangkok. Factoring in the unique experience, this is a steal! The Scala Cinema has really kept its charming elements in tact to give you an authentic experience true to what it would have felt like back in 1967. If you’re seeking a fun, unique night out in Bangkok, the Scala Cinema will deliver.
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Have you ever been to an old retro theatre? How did they maintain the operation of the theatre in relation to its era? What type of movies did they show? Was it an experience you’d like to have again? Please share your stories and feedback in the comment section below!
If I’d watch 20 movies in Bangkok 19 would be either at the Scala or its little brother Lido. Always support these two legacies of Bangkok’s sixties style stand-alone cinemas. Plus they show independent movies that you won’t see in those mulitplexes. Props to all you Scala supporters!!
I wish I could say the same! It’s just a bit far of a commute when I have a major next door (lazy, I know)… but this is my go-to special occasion ‘date-night’ movie theatre! Have never been to Lido, but heard equally good things!
Pair this up with somewhere like the Atlanta Hotel’s restaurant for a cool retro themed night on the town 🙂 Props to you for digging it too!
Would love to visit this place. Movie Palaces are a dying breed. Interesting to see how culture (or some bottom-line business person) no longer values surroundings and aesthetics in public spaces.
I think it should be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s incredible that it’s survived Bangkok’s rapidly changing landscape. I hope it lasts much longer!
What an awesome movie theater! It’s so sad that classic places like this are constantly being lost to the megaplexes next door. There’s something to be said for the act of going to the movie being an experience in itself. Next time I’m in BKK I’ll have to check it out!
I fully agree Greg! I mean – I love seeing a good film in IMAX… but they certainly don’t have this old retro charm!
My couchsurfing host took me there when I was last in Bangkok. Such a cool place. Great that you’ve shared it so other people can feel some nostalgia!
Oh awesome, Adam!! Very cool you’ve already been! I’m looking forward to going back again and again!
The ceilings! Be still my heart. There was an awesome theater like this in my old neighborhood in Chicago and I miss it so much. They even had beer on tap.
Wow – I’m not sure if they have beer at the Scala.. but I’ll suggest it next time I go 😉
Massive fan of art-deco architecture and a massive fan of only paying 3bucks for a ticket, last time I checked, movie tickets were about $20 back home in Aus!
It’s really a win-win situation, eh Ash? Next time you’re in Bangkok, definitely check it out! The absolute worst case scenario that you don’t enjoy it… it’s only $3
Planning a quick trip to Bangkok next month and have added several to-do’s to my list from your recent posts!
When you come through Bangkok, be sure to let me know! I haven’t seen a movie here yet… may be a fun night out 🙂