Alternative cinemas: Hidden theaters, movie bars, and multiplex spaces in Bangkok

Photo: Bangkok Screening Room
Photo: Bangkok Screening Room

With the closing of the historic Lido theater in Siam Square last month — and the imminent closing of its sister theater Scala around the corner in 2020 — Bangkokians may be starting to resign themselves to a life stuck with no other options than watching blockbuster movies in soulless mall theaters. And don’t even get us started on the prices on sodas, popcorn, and snacks at those freezing cold big box theaters.

But before you give up completely and resign yourself to watching horrible streaming copies of theater movies in your condo for the rest of your time in Bangkok — wait! We’ve got some tips that might help.

There are plenty of alternative places to watch flicks — both new, old, indie, and mainstream — around Bangkok. Hey, many of them are even free. The owners just hope your cheap ass springs for a beer or a snack while you soak up all the alt cinema goodness.

Here are the hidden places across Bangkok to check out films:

Jam Cafe

Photo: Jam Cafe/Facebook

Artsy bar and hangout spot Jam Cafe, located down a side soi in Surasak, has been hosting a Wednesday night cult movie series, called Jam Cine Club, for over five years. It has became so popular that the owners renovated their upstairs room to add comfy loungers and a larger screen after the old-school pull down screen and seating downstairs became too much for the large numbers of people attending.

They focus on unusual, obscure and weird titles, the movies start at 8pm and entry is free. They serve good food from veggie burgers to sandwiches and have inexpensive drinks, such as Asahi draft and a full espresso menu.

FIND IT: Jam Cafe, Charoen Rat Soi 1 (BTS Surasak)

Cinema Oasis

Photo: Cinema Oasis/Facebook

This new spot on Sukhumvit Soi 43, opened at the beginning of this year, focuses on art house cinema, with a special fondness for Thai-made films.

The 48-seat venue is more of a traditional theater than the other venues listed so far and is owned by renowned photographer Manit Sriwanichpoom, who also owns Silom’s Kathmandu Gallery, and his wife, Ing Kanjanavanit.

The duo made national headlines five years ago when their own movie, Shakespeare Must Die was banned from being shown in Thailand due to its inclusion of some touchy Thai political topics.

FIND IT: Cinema Oasis, Sukhumvit Soi 43 (BTS Phrom Pong)

Friese-Greene Club

Photo: Friese-Greene Club/Facebook

One of Bangkok’s true hidden gems, this theater in a shophouse, down a side soi on Sukhumvit Soi 22, is owned by filmmaker Paul Spurrier and shows incredible movies from the well-known to the obscure every night at 8pm except Mondays. The free movies usually go in themes, like every Saturday in June is a David Cronenberg film while each Thursday this month is a film featuring a conspiracy.

The setup is a bar and lounge on the first floor with screens set up to watch and where beer and wine can be had for about THB100, the second floor has a couch and large screen TV, and the nine seat theater is on the third floor.

If you are really stoked to watch a certain title, you can reserve a seat on the third floor on their website. They happily let guests order in food from the Thai-Muslim restaurant next door.

FIND IT: The Friese-Greene Club, Sukhumvit Soi 22 (BTS Asoke)

The Vagabond Bar

Photo: The Vagabond/Facebook

Our new favorite dive bar in Bangkok, recently opened in an alley off Sukhumvit Soi 11, had a successful run with five monthly movie nights so far. They played well-loved cult titles like Easy Rider and The Big Lebowski and hope to do more of the same. The movies showed to packed houses at their outdoor space and were projected onto a nearby wall.

Manager Blake Felder told Coconuts that he is in the process for working out a better projector mount for inside the bar so they can continue the once a month events. Keep an eye on their Facebook page to find out the details.

Read our full feature about the bar here.

FIND IT: The Vagabond Bar, Sukhumvit Soi 11 (BTS Nana)

Cinema Winehouse

Photo: Cinema Winehouse/Facebook

Located near Khao San Road, this cafe feels like hanging out in a friend’s house. The drinks are cheap, wine and beer can be had for less than THB100, and the furniture doesn’t match, adding to the quirky style. The films are projected nightly at 7pm onto the wall from the second level so, for movie lovers, the best seats in the house are on the daybeds or beanbag chairs on the loft level.

During the day, lots of people use this cafe as a co-working space, since it’s open daily from 11am-midnight. You can track what movies are playing, and when, on their Facebook page.

FIND IT: Cinema Winehouse, 61 Samsen Road (Phra Athit Pier)

Bangkok Screening Room

Photo: Bangkok Screening Room/Facebook

Another venue that operates more like a small-scale traditional theater, this art house theater screens contemporary and classic films from Thailand and abroad. Going for an upscale (and pricier) vibe, they offer craft beers, high-end wines and gourmet snacks and food.

Fans like that it’s super clean, cozy, and you can choose your own seats in advance online. One really unusual feature at the 52-seat theater is that, since they focus on showing movies that have trouble finding other places to screen in Thailand, they split the proceeds for the runs 50/50 with the producers.

Check out Coconuts interview with the theater founders here.

FIND IT: Bangkok Screening Room, Sala Daeng Soi 1 (BTS Sala Daeng)

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