See great films, movies in Ubud & other Southeast Asian spots

One thing we don’t see much of on our travels: film festival caliber flicks. That changed when we went to the movies in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, of all places.

I used to go to film festivals before we retired early to travel. So when our friend Chuck showed us a theater in Bali that plays more avant-garde type stuff, I happily sat down for a two-hour showing of The Souvenir, released in 2019. I really enjoyed it!

Movies in Ubud: price, set up

Tickets cost 75,000 rupiah, or $5.32, for our show. That’s about the most we’ve ever paid for a movie in Southeast Asia – but that’s fine by me to see a film — something other than the mainstream movie muck Hollywood churns out.

The Paradiso Ubud has a variety of films and movies. The business also shows regular movies in Ubud like ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’, for example. Ticket prices for older mainstream movies cost less – just a couple of dollars. There is only one screen.

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Sometimes the theater is used for events, such as a writers retreats or other special art events. The theater schedule is on the wall in an art gallery, which is on the first floor of the theater. (You can also find the schedule posted outside on the street, and online.) Their schedule seems to be up about month in advance.

where you buy tickets to the movies in ubud inside an art gallery
Ticket counter at Paradiso Ubud theater, with movie, film, and event listings on the wall.

In addition to the art gallery on the first floor with the ticket counter, there is another cafe with some seating.

With our admission, we had a 50,000 rupiah credit towards something on the theater’s dining menu. Isn’t that awesome?! Yep, there’s a cafe right there inside the theater on the second floor. Your order will be delivered to your seat.

the theater in ubud
The second floor at Paradiso Ubud theater features relaxing chairs and a cafe (not pictured).

This was a pleasant surprise to our experience with movies in Ubud. And the menu has lots of healthy choices – yogurt, smoothies, fruit bowls, and full meals. No M&Ms or hot dogs here.

The closest thing to an artsy movie I’ve seen between leaving the U.S. and my Paradiso Ubud visit was a film called “More than Blue” I watched in Malaysia. It was a subtitled Chinese mainstream remake of a Korean film from 10 years ago.

That Ubud has a theater that can play films in English is awesome. The venue likely would not exist if it weren’t for all of us tourists. So while Ubud loses some of its native charm by having a theater like this, to me it was a delight to watch Western cinema while in town — since it was there why not enjoy it?

The Paradiso Ubud website is here. There are no mega-movie theaters in Ubud (that I know of).

Other theaters in Southeast Asia

The movies in Ubud are nothing like mainstream theaters in other parts of Southeast Asia. As a long-term traveler, slipping into conventional western-style Hollywood movie theaters sometimes brings me comfort. The theaters are ice-box cold and provide relief from the heat. And the seats are huge, new, cushy. There are some IMAX screens and advanced audio systems.

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As I mentioned, admission is under $5, usually in the $3 – $4 range. If you want popcorn and soda, snacks are a dollar or two. Some theaters have days and times for reduced prices, similar to a matinee discount back home. Check individual theater websites or ask at the counter when you duck into a mall to cool off in the air conditioning.

The theaters look and smell the same in Southeast Asia as in the States – candy counters and movie posters; popcorn (but there’s no extra butter or salt offered). In Vietnam, all the workers spoke perfect English. Malaysia theaters use self-serve ticket machines with staff nearby to help.

One difference in Thailand was interesting. Before every movie, right after all the commercials and previews and announcements, everyone stands for the national anthem, accompanied by pictures of the king. It would be bad manners and considered disrespectful if foreigners did not stand.

A screen shot of the Thai king during the national anthem before a movie in Chiang Mai.

Seating is not random. In Southeast Asia, you pick your seat when you buy your ticket.

Also, there are special choices for seating. Some theaters have leather reclining couches – even beds – for more money. The “preferred” seating also comes with things like wine service and gourmet snacks. We have not experienced these. The ticket prices jump to what you would pay in America.

My first trip to a foreign movie theater since we started traveling in 2015 was in the 2018 holiday season. I saw Aqua Man. Yes, a Hollywood mainstream action flick. But it was just what I needed. It was the holidays, and I might’ve had a touch of the blues for home. A familiar movie setting – with mindless entertainment before me – cheered my spirits a bit.

One last note about movies in Southeast Asia: sometimes English is not available as a dub or in subtitles, so check the listing closing for the language.

Other entertainment in Southeast Asia:
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