Lights, camera, action
The number of Myanmar movie theatres has dwindled in recent decades, but local company MAZE is planning to build 100 cinemas across the country with priority going to towns without a single picturehouse.
MOVIE-LOVING Myanmar is suffering from a dearth of cinemas, which local firm MAZE is hoping to remedy. The company is kicking off a K20 billion two-year project to build 100 theatres across different states and regions.
There were more than 400 cinemas nationwide in the early 1980s, but by the 2010s this had dropped to around 40, according to the firm. Many cinemas went out of business and the buildings have since been demolished to make way for hotels, shopping malls and apartment and office buildings.
This has had a knock-on effect on country’s film industry. Producers struggle to make profits, because their films have to queue – sometimes for years – to be released on the big screen.
MAZE chair U Lwin Moe said he had interviewed people across the country and found many that were unable to watch films because their area lacked a cinema.
“I found there wasn’t a single cinema in Mawlamyine despite a population of some 300,000,” he said.
KBZ Group is financing the project to bring movie theatres to the masses, and the MAZE has also held discussions and negotiations with the Ministry of Information, MAZE CEO U Tin Maung Win said.
A K20 billion project loan from KBZ will cover all the construction expenses and land acquisition, with approximately K200 million earmarked for each cinema, U Tin Maung Win said at a press conference at the headquarters of City FM in Yangon on July 1
The Myanmar Motion Picture Organisation’s president U Luu Min, Ministry of Information officials and representatives of KBZ Group were among those attending.
MAZE, which was set up to operate cinemas, will prioritise towns without a movie theater, and has already started construction work on cinemas in the southern Shan State town of Aungban and in Yangon Region’s Taikkyi township as a pilot project.
Those two cinemas are slated to open within four months, and plans for the next round of construction will be based on the experience of the pilot project, MAZE said at the press conference.
All cinemas will be two-storey 60-by-80 foot buildings and occupy land leased from owners on 10-year contracts, U Lwin Moe said. The firm will also cooperate with owners of existing small town theatres to help upgrade their facilities, he added.
The project aims to bring cinemas of equal quality and standard to small towns and larger cities, U Lwin Moe said. Modern facilities like automatic ticket machines will be used to save costs, he added, and the location for each cinema will strike a balance between convenience for customers and land prices, as downtown areas are expensive.
“It’s difficult to say how much we will pay for the land as prices vary from town to town,” U Lwin Moe said.
MAZE originally planned to build 116 theatres but reduced the number to 100. However, the cinemas – all called Aung Bar Lay – will still be built in ever state and region across Myanmar.
Yangon Region will enjoy the most new cinemas, with Mandalay, Bago and Ayeyarwady the next largest recipients.
The new 316-seat MAZE cinemas will use Barco projectors and Dolby digital sound systems, with ticket prices starting from K1000.
– Translation by Kyawt Darly Lin
A Cinderella story for Myanmar’s movie houses. Laborers work on bamboo scaffolding as they paint the front view of a cinema at downtown area of Yangon in March 2015.