Housed in a replica of the long-demolished Sri Krung, the country’s first facility for recording full-length movies with soundtracks, the Thai Film Museum on Phutthamonthon Sai 5 Road celebrates the history of motion pictures in the Kingdom, from 1897 to the present day, in a most inviting, interactive fashion.
The Thai Film Museum occupies a building whose exterior mimics that of Sri Krung Sound Film Studio, the groundbreaking commercial enterprise set up by Manit and Phao Vasuvat. Dubbed “the Hollywood of Siam”, it housed the country’s very first sound stage for making “talkies”. The original building was designed by Prof Ercole Manfredi, a supremely talented Italian architect who worked for the Fine Arts Department in the early 20th century. It was erected in an empty field in Bang Kapi district on what is now Asok Road close to the Asok-Sukhmvit intersection. Sri Krung Sound Film Studio opened for business in 1935 and was a major hub of movie production and creative activity right up to the outbreak of World War II. The subsequent falloff in business, compounded by the devastating floods which crippled Bangkok in 1942, caused its closure. After the war, the venue reopened as a cinema named Sala Sri Krung. This later went out of business and the building was dismantled in 1966 to be replaced by a petrol station. The place where it stood is now occupied by an exit from the Sukhumvit MRT station and a car park. Given pride of place right in front of the Thai Film Museum is a statue of Prince Sappasartsupakij manning a movie camera. Nicknamed “the Duke” by King Chulalongkorn, his half-brother, Prince Sappasartsupakij is now regarded as “the father of Thai cinema”. In 1897, while accompanying the king on the formal visit he made to several European capitals, the prince purchased a twoin- one movie camera and projector. He later used that machine to make a record of the king carrying out official duties and to capture events that happened in and around the various palaces. The prince was also the owner of the country’s first movie-screening and -rental business and regularly hosted film screenings during the Winter Fair which used to be held every year in the grounds of Wat Benchamabopit (the Marble Temple). He passed away in 1919 at the age of 62.
The two-storey building is jam-packed with exhibits (old photos, cinema projectors, movie cameras and other vintage equipment, film trophies and memorabilia) and also fascinates with life-size mock-ups of significant room interiors, screenings of old flicks and multimedia presentations.
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