Thailand Unveils First-Ever Pet-Friendly Cinema Near Bangkok

A cuddly white cat in a yellow dress claimed a spot on top of a movie theater seat in Bangkok while a nearby Chihuahua, dressed as “Sebastian the Crab,” prepared to enjoy Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” alongside its human companion.

Another dog, styled as Ariel with a crimson wig and mermaid tail, was in attendance too.

Saturday saw the arrival of a plethora of pawed moviegoers, who came via strollers to celebrate the launch of Thailand’s first pet-accommodating cinema located in Bangkok’s outskirts.

The pet sector in Thailand is recognized as the second largest in Asia, following China, boasting around 8.3 million dogs and 3.7 million cats in 2021, as per industry data.

Pet ownership has surged further amid the COVID-19 pandemic, giving rise to opportunities for some businesses to capitalize on this trend.

Mano, a 37-year-old individual, had taken his rescue feline, Kati, to the movie theater.

“We take him to work sometimes … today is like an experiment,” Mano told AFP. “We are seeing The Little Mermaid. He will enjoy seeing all the fish on the screen.”

Pets were required to wear diapers and be seated in bags for the show. Furthermore, adjustments to sound and lighting were made to enhance their comfort, stated Major Cineplex spokesperson Mr Narute Jiensnong.

Mr Narute conveyed to AFP, “Bangkok is not a very pet-friendly city,” but added that the new concept builds upon their existing child-friendly theaters.

He pointed out that some pets, adopted during the pandemic, now experience separation anxiety as their human companions no longer work remotely or remain in lockdown.

“In the kid cinemas, kids will be running around screaming or shouting … I think pet cinema will be the same. Everyone who comes will own a pet and be understanding (if dogs bark),” he expressed.

Other enterprises too are opening their arms to their furry clientele.

IKEA, the Swedish furniture behemoth, declared this month that small dogs and felines are welcome to explore its Thailand outlets, provided they are seated in strollers.

However, the opening of the pet cinema wasn’t devoid of some dissatisfaction.

A 62kg Alaskan Malamute named Tungchae, who showed up in a 1.5-square-meter dog trolley fitted with a cooling fan, was deemed too large to be allowed entry, leading to an uproar of disappointment outside the theater.

Despite the precautions taken for animal welfare in the cinema, not every pet owner approved of the concept.

A long-time resident of Bangkok argued that while her cat often dozes off next to her on the couch during TV time, she would never subject her pet to the cinema experience, considering it as “‘unnatural'” and “‘torture'”.

She expressed her concerns to AFP, saying, “being zipped up in this cage, I don’t know if that’s enjoyable for the animal.”

“It’s so ridiculous dogs are not allowed in (most Bangkok) parks but they can go to a movie or cafe. What comes next, you bring your dog or cat to a massage parlour?”