One of my favorite hang-outs in Bangkok is the Scala theater in Siam Square. Liwayway, Bubbles, and I usually watch movies there instead of going to the mall. It's less crowded in Scala and the movies are cheaper by 60 baht.
While waiting for a movie in the lobby one night, I closely inspected the tableau that rests on top of the entrance of the theater. The sculptured piece is a long series of scenes of Asian cultural expressions (music, dance, architecture) and I thought the style looked rather familiar.
I thought it had a Filipino touch to it, something I've seen in one of the facades of a building along EDSA in the Pasay part, near the Trader's Hotel. Is it the Coconut Hotel or Copacabana or something? (Can someone here help me ID that building?)
I went to other end of the sculpture (I honestly don't know the proper term for it) and my hunch was proven correct that it was designed by a Filipino. It indicated that it was designed by Ver Manipol and was executed by Fed Tagala. A Google search of Manipol hardly showed anything except that he has an office in BKK and that he also did the reliefs of the Holy Redeemer Church in Soi Ruamrudee (see this link).
The wall relief is only one of the many treasures of Scala, a part of the Apex group of cinemas. The term supposedly means "stairs" and I wonder if it is named after the La Scala opera house in Milan, after all there's also a cluster of cinemas called the Lido just nearby.
Located in the heart of a bustling commercial area (pretty much across Siam Discovery, Siam Center, and Siam Paragon), the cinema was built in 1967 by Chira Silpakanok (source: BK Magazine).
The building is truly an architectural centerpiece that must have seemed more grand in its prime years. Nonetheless, today it still stands a remarkable example of an architectural style of that era (perhaps some branch of modern architecture?) .
The facade is rather unpretentious; in fact, as seen in the photo above, the marquee still uses those letter cut-outs. Marble floors greet you at the entrance and a sweeping twin staircase leads you to the main lobby. Hovering above the staircase is a gigantic chandelier made up of a cascade of glass orbs. The main lobby is a forest of tall columns that spread towards a canopy of golden light fixtures. You buy your ticket from a wooden booth where they still tear and stamp your ticket stub (yes, sans computers).
While waiting for your movie to start, you can settle in the sitting area amidst a backdrop of tall, exquisite wood carvings. Going inside the actual screening hall, ushers in yellow coats part the heavy curtains that open to the 800-seater cinema. The seats are comfortably tiny and they do not swallow you in a mass of cushion.
After more than forty years the Scala has obviously aged. There's a rather stuffy smell inside the cinema and in most cases less than half of the seats are occupied.
Nonetheless, because of its enduring grandeur I attach a sense of nostalgia to the Scala. It's always nice to bask in its unique and inviting charm, which definitely gives reason enough for my amigas and me to keep on going back.