Going to the movies is practically a national pastime in Vietnam. Locals flock to every major homegrown release, breaking box-office figures in the process, and while international films are routinely censored, that doesn’t stop the crowds from turning up in their droves. Here’s a roundup of the best movie-going experiences you can get in Ho Chi Minh City
Take a seat and grab your popcorn |
The CGV is one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most popular cinemas |
The 1980s were a great period for movies, when blockbusters ruled and every release demanded a trip to the cinema. Cinestar has channelled that vibe wonderfully, decking out its two District 1 multiplexes with a classic aesthetic. It’s retro-chic throughout: from the neon-heavy signage outside to the space-inspired interiors. With tickets starting at 45,000 Vietnamese Dong (£1.50), the prices are refreshingly old-fashioned, too. Thankfully, the setups themselves are state-of-the-art, with huge screens and accompanying sound systems.
Out in District 3, Cinebox’s run-down exterior and aged neon-sign belies the old-school grandeur within. Not the main cinema upfront with its two cramped screening rooms. Instead, pick a movie in the building out back, where across two different floors, they’ve kitted out the theatres with a retro charm: huge concession areas, indulgent red chairs and massive screens to take it all in. The top-floor cinema, in particular, is a stunner, and its elegant balcony a throwback to the golden age of cinema. Regular tickets start at VND70,000 (£2.40).
There’s nothing particularly special about DCine from the outside – but what the latest entry into the Ho Chi Minh market might lack in glitz, it makes up for in cinematic experience. While many other chains are downsizing, squeezing in smaller screens and ever more seats, the centrally located DCine focuses on quality over quantity. Its six screening rooms (five regular, one DeLuxe) are each decked out with spacious seating and good screen size, with prices starting at VND45,000 (£1.50), while the DeLuxe, which has 24 seats, starts at VND100,000 (£3.40) for its recliners.
Why leave the comfort of your own bedroom and the charms of a cosy Netflix and chill session to go and see a film at the cinema? Because now you can watch your favourite films from a bed in the movie theatre. CGV’s L’Amour have redesigned their auditorium with 12 huge beds instead of some of the seats, each done up for you and your companion to spread out on. They’re available at six different multiplexes across the city, and while it might be a gimmick – and at VND600,000 (£20) for two, it’s probably the most expensive cinema ticket in town – where else would you get to watch a film in bed, apart from at home, that is.
Galaxy partnered with Warner Brothers in the early 2000s, making it the longest-running chain in the city. And that early advantage, when nobody else was daring to invest in Vietnam, has paid off. With multiplexes dedicated to the art of cinema all across the city, the Galaxy chain offers the best bang-for-your-movie-buck in town, with the central Nguyen Du location its pride and joy. A huge multiplex with the stunning vista of Tao Dan Park in the background, it has five theatres collectively holding more than 1,000 seats, with prices from VND45,000 (£1.50) a pop.
Vietnam’s tallest building demands a cinema to match its scope and scale, and that’s what the IMAX cinema at the Landmark 81 does. They missed a trick by not situating the cinema on the upper floors (the screens are in the basement), but nonetheless it’s a great experience. Tickets cost VND100,000 (£3.40), making it one of the most affordable IMAX cinemas in the world. After the movie, jump in the lift and head up to one of the bars that offer stunning views of the city. Here you can while away the rest of the evening discussing the pleasures and pitfalls of your chosen flick over a drink.
A bit of a trek out of town (it’s a 40-minute drive from District 1), but for the right movie and the right experience, this cinema is well worth it. The first CGV Starium cinemas, opened in Korea, were quickly certified by the Guinness World Records as the biggest screens in the world. The Ho Chi Minh version might not be quite as large, but it’s still impressive: 22 metres across and with groundbreaking tech that shows the clearest picture imaginable. Tickets vary, but expect to pay less than VND100,000 (£3.40).
It’s dirty and decrepit, rundown and far out of town – but Dong Da is a glimpse into those long-forgotten post-war communist days, when Vietnam struggled to rebuild, entertaining the masses through small cinemas that showed 1970s Euro-grindhouse exclusively, sticking a middle finger of sorts to Hollywood. The movies here are, of course, more international these days, but the aesthetic is the same, with cramped chairs and a meagre screen. However, at just VND45,000 (£1.50) a ticket, for a cheap throwback experience, it can’t be beat.