Captivated By Culture Travel Blog

Slow travel , Immersion travel , Cultural travel

Captivated By Culture Travel Blog

Movie theaters and cinemas in Asia. American movie premier in Asia.

Star Wars premier in Asia

I get to see the new Star Wars movie before the rest of the world! I’ve always wanted to attend the first showing of a movie, but for major releases at home in the USA, that usually requires standing in line at quarter to midnight. So now that I’m in an earlier time zone and the theater is right downstairs from my apartment, I plan to be the first in line. And I don’t even have to go outside. I just take the elevator. There is no showing at midnight, but that’s okay.  Since we are a day ahead here in Vietnam, I still get to see it before anybody in the USA. Oddly, the theater has only 2 showings on opening day and they are both in English with Vietnamese subtitles. Usually the major movies are also dubbed in the local language, but not this one. Maybe Star Wars is not as popular here in Vietnam as it is in the US?.

 I’ve arrived at the theater an hour early to secure my spot at the front of the line, but strangely there is no line, so I purchase my ticket and return to my apartment to await start time. The theaters in Vietnam have assigned seats which you choose when purchasing your ticket. Since I was the first to buy a ticket, I will be occupying the best seat in the house: eye level, center. If you are curious about the ticket price, it is $2.50 USD rather than $12-$15 I’d be paying in the states. Popcorn costs less than a dollar but is only sold in small individual bags. In Asia, all food portions are small. That’s probably the reason no one is overweight. Everyone is thin and small. I’m 5’6” and even most of men are shorter than I.

Which type of English language movies are popular in Vietnam?

It’s just about start time, so I go downstairs to buy my popcorn, and, again, there is no one in line. In fact, the only people in the lobby are two other Americans. And then when the theater opens, its just the three of us. That’s all. In the whole theater, only three of us! It’s almost like a private viewing. What a treat!

Speaking of treats, my popcorn held a big surprise that I discovered after the movie started. My family has a tradition whereas we don’t begin devouring the popcorn until the actual movie begins. Not the previews. Not the commercials, the actual movie. Imagine this: You are seated all cozy in the theater. You don’t know what to expect since you have never been in a movie theater in Vietnam.  The lights dim signaling the start of the projection. All of a sudden, you hear popping sounds pinging off the wall all around you. It scares you a little bit. You look around and see nothing capable of making such noise. Then the screen lights up and draws your attention to the culprit, a projection of little colored bouncing balls. Your are pleased to discover the theater has surround sound. This fact is announced from the screen. A woman’s voice says, in English,  ” All …around… you…..”

Don’t get comfortable yet. There is a surprise coming!

What is next you wonder. Well it’s all pretty basic from then on. A few previews, a few commercials, then the movie. Soon, that familiar Starwars narration begins to scroll and it’s finally time to dive into the popcorn and relax with a good movie. You begin to read the narration for the film, then pop a piece of popcorn into your mouth. Surprise! Your attention is immediately drawn away from the screen. This is not your normal popcorn. You’re expecting the salty, buttery taste that you are accustomed to, but instead, you get……sweet! There is nothing about this popcorn to indicate that it was going to be sweet, just regular looking popcorn. and it’s not sprinkled with granules of sugar that you can shake off, it’s coated with some kind of sugary spray. The sugar is adhered to each piece. There is no getting around it. I asked and they can’t remove it or serve it without the sprayed on sugary coating. You are in Asia now and you will be having sweet popcorn with your movie. The two other westerners in the theater begin to laugh. They were waiting for this moment.

What are theaters like in Asia?

This particular theater, as well as my apartment, is located in the Pegasus Plaza high rise building which is only 2 years old. My 2 bedroom apartment on the 16th floor is already showing wear, with mold growing behind the wallpapered walls, but the theater shows no sign of wear and is of high quality with excellent sound, a spacious lobby, a smoothie bar, fake flowering trees and stand alone cardboard movie props where you can take a selfie, plus a full line of movie theater snacks. It’s also one of the few places in town where you can buy diet pepsi. It’s top notch.

Friends of mine in the lobby having a smoothie next to the fake flowering tree
Cinema lobby

 The popcorn takes some getting used to, but I am here to experience the Vietnamese culture, right?, so I embrace the sweetness and enjoy the Vietnam movie and popcorn experience. I thought the movie was just okay. In my opinion, the writers could have taken a bigger risk. I and my family have been waiting so long for this movie that I immediately wanted to start publishing my opinion, but I’ll wait until the whole world has a chance to see it as one of our other family traditions is to never spoil the ending of a movie or book. This doesn’t count for predictions though. When I was a kid, our family would watch those t.v. movies and soon after the movie began, my step-father would get a little piece of paper and write his prediction for the ending, then he’d fold the paper and set it next to his cigarettes.  After the show ended, he’d unfold the paper and we would all be amazed at how smart he was. Now that I have more experience, I can do it too. Starwars was like that. Quite predictable.

How to have the movie theater all to yourself

A couple days later I go to view Starwars again and this time I am the ONLY PERSON IN THE THEATER. Everyone else is taking their afternoon siesta. Other than the movie theater, the rest of the town shuts down between 11 and 4. I mean, really, you can’t even get lunch. If you want to have the whole theater to yourself, come to Vietnam and take in a matinee.

Movie poster for Deadpool
Deadpool premiered the same week and was much more popular


Also opening in the cinema this week is Deadpool. The theater is packed for the opening. I can’t figure out why one movie is so popular but not the other, so I ask my Vietnamese friends. They inform me that space movies are considered to be children’s movies and grown ups are not interested in such nonsense. Hmm…interesting…space movies are considered to be for children, but comic book characters are for adults.  Come to think of it, none of my British and South African friends are here either. Is it just Americans who are so enamored of space movies?

I’m not going to write a film review here, but I am linking to a post by, the title of which should give you a good idea of my choice for favorite character in this episode.

Culture tip: The Vietnamese refer to watching a movie in a movie theater, as watching a film in a cinema. If you speak British English, you recognize this collocation. Vietnamese schools tend to use textbooks and tests published by the British Council, and the majority of the teachers are from UK or South Africa, so most of the young people in South East Asian countries are learning British phonics and speak English with a British accent. Despite the emphasis on British English, teachers from all countries are welcome, even if English is not your first language. The older residents of Vietnam speak with the American accent due to America’s presence during the war. As far as I know, Taiwan is the only Asian country where American phonics are currently emphasized. As soon as I get there, I’ll let you know. I’ll be going there soon. Taiwan is my next destination.

Are you a Star Wars fan?

9 Replies to “Movie theaters and cinemas in Asia. American movie premier in Asia.”

  • I am not a star wars fan but i am a huge fan of going to tbe cinema. Myself and boyfriend have lived in Asia for 2 years now and we always go to the cinema. So many movies shown in English, we are spoilt for choice. I also think the cinemas are better in Asia than they are in the UK.

  • Wow, I would never have thought to find an English language early release when travelling but it’s a great tip. Thanks for sharing.
    I am a bit jealous of your Star Wars experience I have to say.

  • Interesting to watch the film in a different country! The cost is obviously massively different but sounds like a cool experience. Cheap popcorn is a winner though!

  • I have always wondered how it is to see a film in a different country and thanks for your experience. I hope to do that with a big popcorn box as cheap as yours.

  • I lived in Korea for almost 18 years and only went to the movies if there was a theatre complex close by. I enjoyed going to movies in Thailand. Prices are much cheaper than Korea, the VIP seating is fantastic. I once fell asleep on a sofa in the VIP section. That was a bit embarrassing! 🙂

  • Woah, what I wonder about this is whether asian countries have sufficient copyright laws to prevent bootlegging? A lot of the cruddy versions of first run movies available on ripoff sites like solarmovies and putlocker seem to be cam versions filmed in asia.

    • Since these movies were showing a few hours before even being released in the USA, I’m thinking they were purchased directly from the studio. Also, they were of prime quality.

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