Fans gather for final showings at Thailand’s much-loved La Scala theatre

Movie fans gather to bid farewell to the last stand-alone movie theatre "La Scala" amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bangkok, Thailand July 4, 2020. REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Donning masks and observing social-distancing practices, movie and theatre fans on Saturday bid a final farewell to Thailand’s La Scala theatre in Bangkok, which is set to close its doors in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 50-year-old theatre, built in the late modernism architectural style with an Art-Deco interior, has been struggling for the last decade to stay profitable amid competition from new media and increases in its land lease costs.

The pandemic and restrictions on movement to curb its spread dealt the final blow to the theatre in the heart of the capital. The Thai economy as a whole is forecast to shrink this year more than any other in Southeast Asia.

“I’m so sad I have no words. It is heartbreaking,” said Nanta Tansasha, whose family runs the theatre, which was built by her father.

“When we look toward the future, I don’t know if it (business) will pick up… so I decided to stop the business now,” she said.

The theatre had a glamorous opening on New Year’s Eve in 1970, and the first movie it showed was “The Undefeated” starring John Wayne and Rock Hudson.

In its heyday, it rolled out the red carpet for celebrities including the likes of Jean Claud Van Damme for the Bangkok Film Festival in 2003.

The final showings this weekend include Italian movies and Thai documentaries, with 3,000 tickets sold to fans who want to pay one last visit.

La Scala, the last theatre building of its kind in Bangkok, where most cinemas and theatres are housed in larger malls, is already dwarfed by the tall buildings around it. Nanta expects a high-rise to replace her theatre.

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