Fading out and fading back in

One of Bangkok's few cinemas for niche movies, House Rama — or House RCA — has found a new home in Sam Yan

House Samyan. House Samyan

After closing its doors in RCA on Aug 31, the art-house cinema House Rama has found a new home as part of the launch of Samyan Mitrtown, the new mixed-use complex project developed by SET-listed Golden Land Property Development, located near the Sam Yan intersection, just 300m from MRT Sam Yan. The new cinema is set to open on Sept 20.

After 15 years of operation, House Rama, also known as House RCA, has been credited as one of the first stand-alone cinemas in Bangkok screening niche movies, including quality independent films, award-winning flicks, blockbuster hits and non-commercial foreign films from around the world. With 600 films screened from over 40 countries, including France, Italy, Japan, Iran and Israel, the cinema was also the first place to introduce work by many new Thai directors, such as Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit whose debut film 36 screened there back in 2012.

But despite being a beloved long-running cinema, House Rama, which was located in RCA Plaza, Huai Khwang district, was also known as a pretty remote place for diehard cinephiles who didn't mind fighting traffic from the city to come see movies. The nearest BTS and MRT stops were Asok and Rama 9.

"Honestly, we never thought of moving before. Over the years there were a lot of people who came moaning to us about how difficult was it to come all the way to see movies here," said Pongnarin Ulice, one of the three founders of House, along with Chomsajee Techaratanaprasert and Pornchai Viriyaprapanont.

"When Samyan Mitrtown invited us to join in their project about a year ago, we spent months discussing it before eventually deciding to move. Because it's such a risky investment, we'll have to rebuild a new cinema from the ground up."

It's actually been risky since day one, when the three decided to open the original House RCA back in 2004 -- a time when independent and art films weren't that relevant among Thai moviegoers.

"Making a lot of money wasn't really our goal when we started out 15 years ago. House cinema was created simply because my friends and I have a real passion for movies," said Chomsajee, who's a daughter of film tycoon Somsak Techaratanaprasert of Sahamongkol Film.

"As a film distributor myself, there were a lot of great films out there that were turned down by major theatres when we tried to pitch them to screen there, which is unfortunate. And that was when we decided to have a cinema of our own."

According to Chomsajee, there are about 3,000 films produced across the world each year, but only about 300 are selected to be screened in Thailand, most of those produced by big studios. So she hopes that House will serve as an alternative, bringing something different for public.

With an investment of 45 million baht, the new House Samyan cinema is sitting on a space of 1,800m² on the 5th floor of Samyan Mitrtown, and will continue to screen first-run independent films from around the world with Thai subtitles.

House's three founders Chomsajee Techaratanaprasert, Pongnarin Ulice and Pornchai Viriyaprapanont. Photos courtesy of House Samyan

As the name suggests, the exterior and interior of House Samyan were designed on the concept of a homelike venue where visitors would come to see movies, or hang out in a place with a relaxing atmosphere, similar to the first movie theatre at RCA.

The cinema is said to be equipped with the latest technology, and as opposed to the original two, House Samyan will offer three screens with 200, 140 and 100 seats each. An additional screen will focus especially on award-winning and classic titles.

"These films are considered classics and have stood the test of time, and we're bringing them back to the audience with new remastered versions," said renowned film critic and House co-founder Pornchai Viriyaprapanont. "For example, there are Woody Allen's Manhattan, comedy-drama Forrest Gump starring Tom Hanks, Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, and Akira Kurosawa's 1953 drama Tokyo Story."

And to celebrate its new home, from Oct 7-31, House Samyan will be running a "film buffet" promotion featuring over 150 international indie films, where House Samyan members will get to watch as many films as they like, with each films showing only once.

Selected titles include Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit's second feature, Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy, Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's crime thriller Samui Song, American tragic love drama Blue Valentine, Ari Aster's supernatural psychological horror film Hereditary, Quentin Tarantino's dark comedy western The Hateful Eight, coming-of-age teen dramas The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and Eighth Grade, critically acclaimed LGBT films Call Me By Your Name and Blue Is The Warmest Colour, Makoto Shinkai's award-winning animated fantasy drama film Your Name, Korean Zombie flick Train To Busan, and Supersonic, a documentary about the renowned Britpop band Oasis. Full listings, screening times, and details on how to sign up for a membership can be found on House Samyan's Facebook page.

House RCA and House Samyan share the same concept and goal, which is to bring a rare collection of great films to the community by digitising and displaying the cinematheque's archive of film memorabilia and ephemera.

"Of course, it's quite sad that House RCA had to close down and become just a memory," said Pornchai.

"But we're hoping the movie lovers will still continue to support us even when we've moved. And we hope that everyone will help us create new memories at House Samyan."

With the team of designers. House Samyan

House RCA. House Samyan