Major Cineplex’s Jim Patterson succumbs to cancer

Columns
Asia / Pacific Roundabout

Jim Patterson, one of the most colorful characters in Thailand’s cinema industry and catalyst of a number of groundbreaking operating procedures that transformed the country’s theatrical exhibition landscape forever, has passed on. He peacefully died on Saturday, August 13, in a Bangkok hospital after a year-long battle with cancer.

Working at Major Cineplex Group, the country’s largest cinema chain, for almost 20 years, Patterson is credited with securing the exclusive rights for the IMAX screening format for his company in Thailand. As director of business development, he also had a heavy hand in massively expanding the group’s multiplex venues across Thailand and into neighboring countries like Cambodia and Malaysia. He furthermore succeeded in developing the concessions business into a professional operation that today contributes a sizeable chunk to the group’s revenues. While other operators in the region often still regard their concessions business as a necessary nuisance, Patterson always advocated that concessions stands should instead be an integral part of any venue to contribute to the overall moviegoing experience. Taking particular pride in Major Cineplex’s popcorn, he told this correspondent on numerous occasions, “You won’t find better popcorn anywhere else in the whole of Thailand.” And he was right.

“Jim worked cheerfully, loyally and wholeheartedly with our team here at Major Cineplex Group for close to 20 years,” said the group’s chairman, Vicha Poolvaraluk, in a statement. “Over that time, our business grew tremendously, as did the relationships Jim helped to foster in support of our efforts… He made a positive difference to the lives and well-being of many people along this journey. His presence and contributions will be greatly missed.

“Jim helped mentor many of our capable staff here and indeed insisted on continuing to meet with and work with several of our team members despite his illness and right up until the end to prepare them for the future. He was comfortable, as am I, that his work will continue to be carried on by capable hands,” Poolvaraluk added.

An informed source at Major Cineplex disclosed that several top-level executives are being considered to replace Patterson in his capacity as director of business development, including Narute Jiensnong, currently senior department head of premium formats, flagship locations and emerging markets. Born in Canada, Patterson left behind his wife of many years, Lena, and two grown daughters, Jacqueline and Amanda, both of whom live abroad.

Lost Thai Movie Returns Home

The heyday of Thai cinema was in the 1950s and 1960s, when home-produced films were the staple of audiences—and long before Hollywood took over the country’s screens. Many of these classical Thai movies have been lost to history, mostly through neglect in a harsh, extremely humid tropical climate that wreaks havoc on nitrate and celluloid film. But every once in a while, one of these films resurfaces, often by pure chance. Two years ago, the last known negative print of the 1954 classic Santi-Vina was rediscovered at the British Film Institute. After lengthy and expensive restoration at a lab in Italy and subsequent screening at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the last copy of Santi-Vina returned home to the Thai Film Institute, which is now much better equipped to deal with and store fragile film material. The institute has digitized the movie in the meantime in order to preserve it for future generations.

On July 15, Santi-Vina for the first time in more than 60 years was publicly screened at Bangkok’s historical 800-seat Scala Theatre to an excited audience, many of them now in their 70s and older. Since all seats were sold out on that day, additional screenings were scheduled at Scala on July 29 and 30 and at the considerably more modern SF Central World cineplex on July 28 and 29, with seats likewise being gobbled up in record time.

Santi-Vina was directed by Thavee Na Bangchang, who worked under the pseudonym Marut, and produced by Hanuman Production, a local studio which has long since folded. The emotional drama tells the story of the two title characters, Santi, a blind man, and his young lover Vina, a woman who fights against prejudices prevailing against handicapped people and who will do anything to be with the man she loves.

Thailand’s The Forest Wins NETPAC Award

At the closing ceremony of the recent Bangkok International Fantastic Film Festival, British director Paul Spurrier was honored with the NETPAC award for his film The Forest, which was entirely shot and produced in Thailand. The award is presented by the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) at leading film festivals around the world to spotlight exceptional films hailing from the region. Among past filmmakers who received the award are China’s Jia Zhangke, Japan’s Naomi Kawase, the Philippines’ Brillante Mendoza, South Korea’s Kim Ki-Duk and Thailand’s Nonzee Nimibutr.

The award has been presented to more than 150 films over the last 23 years. However, this year’s award marked the first time that it was received by a director who was born, raised and trained outside Asia, and who is non-Asian. But Paul Spurrier has lived in Thailand for the past 12 years and is heavily involved in the local film and television industry as a consultant, producer, writer and director. “It is a great honor to receive this award,” Spurrier said during his acceptance speech. “When I made the tough decision 12 years ago to change my life utterly and move to Thailand, it was really for one reason—I found the country enormously creatively inspiring. I had grown somewhat jaded in the United Kingdom, and a chance trip to Thailand working on a BBC documentary brought the excitement and fun back to filmmaking.”

In The Forest, the Briton sets his story in Isan, the vast rural northeastern region of Thailand, and explores issues of poverty, local politics, religion and social alienation. Around half of the film’s dialogue uses the Isan dialect, which is closely related to Laotian and thus largely incomprehensible even to many Thais. The film celebrated its world premiere at the Cinequest Festival in San Jose, Calif., in early March and will be released in cinemas in Thailand on Sept. 15—subtitled in standard Thai, of course.

For feedback and inquiries, contact Thomas Schmid at Thomas.Schmid@filmjournal.com.