But they're sad about it too.
Last night, during the discussion “The Current Situation and The Future of Scala,” hosted by the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts’ (FAA) Prof. Dr. Budsakorn Binthasan, Chulalongkorn University confirmed that the future looks bleak for Scala, the 50-year-old standalone cinema in Siam Square.
Though stating its commitment to not demolish the characterful, Art Deco building anytime soon, Chulalongkorn (which owns the building and its land) acknowledged that the decision lies on whether or not cinema group Apex can continue to run the financially struggling property.
About a month ago, rumors began spreading online that Apex plans to stop running its film-screening business, bringing the future of Scala and its sister cinema at Siam Square, Lido, into jeopardy. Finally on Dec 31, 2017, the university came clean with a post on its official Facebook page stating that it plans to tear down Lido Multiplex.
The same Facebook post also reaffirmed their wish to see Scala live on. However, it stated the decision rests with Apex and its financial issues.
Apex has so far remained silent on the issue.
Despite widespread internet support for Scala, last night’s discussion was attended by around just 20 people.
Other speakers included the editor of Bangkok Post’s Life section, film critic Kong Rithdee; the standalone cinema archivist Philip Jablon; the deputy director of Thai Film Archive, Sanchai Chotirosseranee; and the director of Jim Thompson Art Center, Gridthiya Gaweewong.
Speaking on behalf of Chulalongkorn, Prof. Dr. Budsakorn Binthasan revealed that the university is struggling to find a tenable use for the property.
“Chulalongkorn does want to keep the building but they are still in a dark corner because they have no idea what they should do with it,” said Prof. Dr. Budsakorn. “They need to see more possibilities and new ideas.”
During the discussion, all four speakers reiterated that Apex’s decision to give up on the business on financial grounds would be understandable.
Sanchai and Gridthiya proposed that Scala could be used for things other than film screenings, such as concerts and art performances.
Event organizers have turned Scala into a concert venue in the past. In 2011, Dudesweet threw a party at the cinema, while Genie Records also hosted a concert there in 2017.
“Of course, Scala must show films still, but the curating of its film program needs to be improved,” commented Gridthiya. “The niche film festivals here always get very good feedback.”
“Cinemas in other countries like Singapore and the US still depend on financial support from the government,” she continued.
In recent years, a grassroots movement of standalone cinema fans has formed online to try and save the building. Under the hashtag #savescala, people have rallied around efforts to prevent the historic architecture of Siam being turned into another mall.
For now, however, there remains no sustainable project from anyone in the film industry or outside developers that could save the cinema.
“Film Archive cannot take over Scala because of the cost for the mend is pretty much over their budget,” said Sanchai on behalf of Thai Film Archive.