Something which has proved very popular with my visitors from overseas on trips to Thailand, which may not seem a particularly cultural thing to do, is take in a movie, and at between 700 – 1,000 Baht (15 – 22 pounds at time of publishing) the luxury screens are a wonderfully relaxing experience that I often take advantage of as a hangover cure.
Of all those around, the SFX cinema’s “First Class” screen , found in many Central Department stores, is my top choice.
700 Baht (15 pounds) per ticket entitles you to pre-film use of the lounge, where staff will take your order for a pre-movie drink, plus your drink and popcorn order for during the film. The lounge offers a buffet of several different sweet and savory nibbles, hot and cold, which always includes some interesting and very tasty cocktail sized dishes on which to feast and you’re expected to go up for more as often as you like.
What I particularly appreciate is that they have a wine list, with a selection of reds and whites at varying prices; usually from around 800 to 1,500 Baht (17 – 30 pounds) served to your seat during the film. It may seem expensive, and by UK standards wine in Thailand is (unless it’s Thai made), due to the import tax, but there’s not so much of a mark-up in restaurants, cinemas and the like.
Seats are typically arranged in pairs of cozy, soft recliners with a small table between them on which, shortly in to the trailers, your popcorn, drinks and wine (if you ordered it) are served. While your free drink isn’t free flow, the popcorn is, so I usually ask for a second bowl (served in decent sized bowls) just before the film starts, and after 2 bowls of cheesy popcorn (my personal fav from the selection on offer) pre-film buffet and bottle of wine, I’m merry and quite stuffed. The recliners lower electronically from upright to near horizontal and are extremely comfortable, especially when snuggling up under the blanket provided. (The blanket is often needed, as the air conditioning is usually quite fierce.)
Don’t get too comfortable yet though because Thailand is very patriotic, and with the nation loving their King, all cinemas play a Royal song in respect to him. Everyone, regardless of nationality, is required to show their respect and stand for it. There have been occasions where I’ve forgotten about this, gotten nice and cozy, led in my recliner under the blanket, popcorn on lap and glass of wine in hand, only to have to scramble madly to my feet, sending the ice bucket flying.
The luxury screens at Siam Paragon Cineplex may be considered a step above the rest, but what you get for 1,000 Baht (22 pounds) per ticket, I don’t find warrants the extra cost.
The surroundings are more high class, but the offering isn’t equal to it. The pre-movie lounge is attractively lit and shrouded in swathes of semi-opaque flowing drapery in a palette of subtle earth-tones with flickering candles and comfortable sofas. This is where your included food and beverage items are served to you, and you have a menu from which to select several refreshment “sets” which can include popcorn, ice cream, bakery, coffee, soft drinks, beer or a glass of wine. In comparison I find it disappointing, as the popcorn portion is not generous, nor is it replenishable, so you must buy more to be served to you in the cinema. When the material cost of popcorn is so low for the establishment, given the ticket price I begrudge buying more. On the up-side, they have a larger selection of wines, and like the FSX First Class screen you can buy a bottle to be served to you at your seat in much the same fashion.
There are no free flow nibbles from a buffet in the lounge, but you do get a 10 minute foot massage through in a curtained off area nearby. Although the area is dimly lit with muted mood music playing, you can easily here the clatter and natter of staff and service operations nearby, through the curtain, so it’s not the most relaxing of experiences, and I’ve always found the masseuses to be quite abrupt in manner and heavy handed. (The firmness could be my own problem as I have sensitive feet resulting from my diabetes….and love of wearing heels with frequency.)
Through in the cinema itself, the seats are cozier than those of SFX First Class. Again they are very comfortable recliners, but here they are twinned together in their own little pods making you feel very privately nested. There is also a bit more table room with in-built surfaces between the paired seats as well as in the edges of the pods. Blankets are provided (and needed) so is a pillow. (Paragon Cineplex has a few luxury screen with different types of seating to choose from.)
It was here that I went with friends to see Deadpool, and much to my surprise there was a couple in the seats behind watching with their (approximately) 5 year old daughter. If you haven’t seen Deadpool it is undeniably an adult film and starts almost immediately with the bloody slaughter of a car load of people during a crash and has some fairly graphic sexual content and offensive language throughout. Usually I don’t appreciate kids in the cinema because they can be noisy and spoil my enjoyment, but if I go to see a kid’s film I expect it and suffer. In Thailand there is no restriction on taking minors in to inappropriate films, and while the little girl was luckily quiet throughout, I just had to ask the couple at the end of the movie, “Did your little girl enjoy all the f***ing and murders?” to which they replied quite cheerily that, “She was asleep for most of it.” Yes, most of it. Still, their choice I suppose, but it does urge me to warn you that if you are taking your kids to see a film here, (even a kid’s film,) trailers are seldom age appropriate for the film you’re going to see, so be ready to cover their eyes quickly.