People flocked in their thousands to cinemas nationwide to watch "The Legend of King Naresuan 5" for free yesterday - but there were not enough seats and many people were disappointed.
Some cinemas volunteered to add more seats, and possibly even more sessions, to meet the overwhelming demand. Security from police and the Army was strong - but there were no reports of anti-coup threats to interrupt the sessions.
Responding to the private sector’s reported offer of an additional free session, National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree said it might be arranged, in which case a date and time would be announced. He said any free show would result from the private sector’s kindness and the NCPO had not coerced any theatres to make the offer.
Initially, 30,000 free tickets were reserved for the 11am showing of the patriotic movie at 160 theatres nationwide – as part of the NCPO’s operation to “return happiness to Thai people”. But many theatres could not provide enough tickets to cope with the number of patrons who flocked for free admission. People reportedly started making lines at 6am to get tickets, and a few theatres reported disturbances when the free passes ran out.
The ticket shortage prompted Major Ratchayothin cinema in Bangkok to add more seats – 230 for the 11am show and an additional 720 for the 11.30am screening. The theatre also sold tickets at Bt120 for those who missed out on free tickets.
Siam Paragon theatre, which had 243 free seats available, opened another viewing room to cater for 243 more – but some disgruntled people still missed out on free seats and were calmed down by Army officers. Siam Paragon reduced the price from Bt220 to Bt130 for all movies in the morning, in a bid to solve the problem.
Plain-clothes police monitored for possible anti-coup protests at cinemas, believing they might tear up free tickets as a stunt against the coup. But Deputy Metropolitan Police chief Pol Maj General Amnuay Nimmano said police would not arrest them – only take photos for legal action later.
Up north, 1,000 people went to Central Festival Mall in Chiang Mai for the free tickets at 8am. But when the free tickets for 240 seats ran out, some paid for admission.
In Phichit, people resorted to sitting on the floor to watch the movie after 195 free seats were handed out. Many signed their names on a waiting list in hope the NCPO would arrange new sessions.
In Nakhon Ratchasima, hundreds of people rushed to get free movie tickets but there were only 400 seats available. Some were noisy before dispersing without trouble. As many missed out because of the ticket shortage, people in Udon Thani, Buri Ram, and Ubon Ratchathani called for more free sessions of the patriotic movie.
A Major Cineplex theatre in Krabi’s Muang district saw 3,000 people show up for 370 free tickets. The rest bought tickets themselves. The same situation occurred in Phuket, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surat Thani, and Phatthalung.
Phatthalung resident Sumontha Suwanlukhit, 43, said she was glad the NCPO arranged such a free show because it taught people to be grateful for King Naresuan’s great kindness and liberation of Siam. “This movie can also create Thai people’s patriotic spirit and unity,” she said.