This recently opened boutique hotel has breathed new life into an old abandoned Bangkok cinema

By Miles Prower

For many visitors, and also residents of Bangkok, the thoroughfare known as Charoengkrung Road is a fascinatingly cool mix of modern and old-school. And as this district’s newfound popularity soars, many derelict properties in this ‘hood have undergone extensive renovations; re-emerging as beautiful restaurants, art gallery, and hotels. One such success story is the Prince Theatre Heritage Stay, the city’s only ex-theatre boutique hotel. Located on Thanon Si Wiang, a small side street off Charoengkrung—within east walking distance of the Saphan Taksin bridge—it opened its doors in February of 2018, after almost a full year of renovation.

Interior of Room #15, a lovely mix of new and old

Left: overview of the lobby; Right: the old wooden beam from the original building still being used in the room I stayed in.

Lobby common area and old movie screen

Sadly, this century-old building had stood neglected for almost a decade. It was rundown, with a broken roof and piles of trash inside. The decrepit box office and torn film posters that remained were scant reminders of its former cinematic function. The Prince Theatre’s multi-million baht preservation project was carried out by owners Montara Hospitality Group under the ‘Heritage Stay’ concept, meaning all efforts are made to both preserve and restore the structure’s original identity as much as possible. For instance, the theatre’s giant movie screen—which was discovered in working condition—is still in use and now boasts high-tech 3D mapping projection technology. In fact, it’s basically the centerpiece of the ground floor lobby, and during the afternoons and evenings classic silent films as well as other short features and movies are screened here.

Vintage furnishings in the room

Work area and window to the street below

As a nod to the building’s storied history, four of the 26 guest rooms are decorated under different cinematic themes, which also reflect the different eras in the building’s history. When it opened in 1912 it was a casino (until casinos were banned in 1917 by royal command), after which it became the Prince Rama movie theatre, originally showing silent films. The theatre soon became a very popular spot in the surrounding neighbourhood, since the audiences were those who shopped in the area as well.

Poster in the room from when the cinema operated as a sleazy XXX theatre.

The property’s third incarnation began in 1975 when a triple projection Cinerama screen was added, although it wasn’t long before shopping mall multiplexes overtook these types of stand-alone cinemas. In its final years, from 1985 to 2010, it operated as a porno movie theatre, and even that seedy chapter is recounted in the room decor.

Another old porn movie poster – this one in the bathroom

I stayed in Room #15, which is lovely large suite suite, located more or less above and behind the lobby’s projection screen. The sloped-ceiling gives it an attic feel, while the room itself is nicely decorated with lots of Thai and international movie poster memorabilia—even some hilarious old posters from the days when XXX films were showing here. The bed was extremely soft and comfortable (we had a great night’s sleep), and as for amenities there were lots: coffee maker; mini-fridge; room safe; bathrobes and slippers; etc. The flatscreen TV meanwhile provided so many TV channels I gave up looking through them all once I passed 500. They were mostly in Thai, of course, but a huge selection of international options were there too.

Million-channel Flatscreen TV, wardrobe, etc

Left: Bathrobes and slippers, the mark of a great hotel; Right: Public bathroom doors on the room’s separate toilet and shower stalls.

One particularly hilarious room design detail was the shower and toilet, as each has a door from a public bathroom-style stall (see pic). The way that the owners have incorporated some fun cinema-related details into the room design is impressive, but the overall movie motif begins, not surprisingly, at the check-in counter, which is styled like a classic cinema box office. Likewise, the lobby displays movie collectibles and memorabilia, including a vintage movie projector, photos, movie handbills, props, and more. There’s also common an area called the Box Office Bar, which serve the cocktails and mocktails named after movies, and as well as tea and coffee and free popcorn.

Vintage movie projector, part of the lobby memorabilia museum

This common area is also where the daily breakfasts are served. However, the breakfast is probably the biggest failing of the entire property. It’s so meagre—just juice, coffee, tea, cereal, toast, jam, and some fruit—that it should really just be scrapped altogether (and eliminated from the room price as well). Thankfully, there are so many noodle shops and other eateries in this ‘hood that finding and alternate morning meal is easy.

Old silent films being screened in the lobby common area during the day

And as the hotel has no actual restaurant anyway (that explains the breakfast), when it comes to lunch and dinner options the best thing to do is explore the area. We ventured out to grab our evening meal at Prachak Roasted Duck restaurant around the corner. It’s been serving up duck since 1909 so you know they’re doing something right!

The fun and funky intersection of Si Wiang and Charoenkrung Roads (the iconic Lebua State Tower is visible in the BG).

Roasted duck with noodles and wontons at Prachak restaurant

As for cost, shared room single bed units, with ensuite bathroom, start from THB 1,000 per night, while the more luxurious Master Suites and Duplex Suites start at THB 4,200 per night (although prices will fluctuate depending on the season, etc).

Prince Theatre Heritage Stay
441/1 Charoenkrung Rd.
Tel: 02 090 2858