Formerly:   New Excelsior Theatre
Address:     327/329 Bogyoke Road
Year built:   1920s
Architect:    Unknown

The Waziya Cinema (or the Excelsior, as it was known) is the last remnant of what was once “Cinema Row”, an iconic strip of movie theatres opposite the Central Railway Station. Thankfully, it is also the oldest and finest example of that period. A minute’s walk from the Sule Shangri-La, right past the Sakura Tower, you won’t miss this majestic, cream-coloured building built deep into 33rd and 34th Streets. Traffic permitting, you may want to cross the street to admire it properly.

One of the last cinemas of “Cinema Row”

Between its imposing white and gilded Ionic columns hang movie posters for the latest Burmese films. The large space beneath the portico (itself a later addition to the building) always teems with hawkers, betel nut stalls and customers awaiting the next screening. Along the roof of the portico—doubling up as a terrace on the first floor—a second row of columns flanks three open-air arcades. This leads to a holding area outside the main hall, lined with tired-looking leather folding seats. The ground floor lobby features original, if worn, teak panelling and the doors to the screening room are the grandest you are ever likely to find in any cinema.

The projection room doubles as the living room for the owner’s family

The Excelsior was nationalised and became the Waziya in 1964. Built as a live theatre, the government returned it to its original use in 1985. In 1999 it became a cinema again. The Ministry of Information leased it to the Myanmar Motion Picture Organization (MMPO). Owing to its location and beauty, a restoration proposal by the Yangon Heritage Trust and the MMPO may offer the Waziya yet another lease of life. They aim to convert it into a thriving entertainment and cultural centre, complete with state-of-the-art digital AV equipment.

Until then, you can still enjoy the whirring sounds of the old projector spinning its way through reels and reels of Burmese movies—as it did once with those of Alfred Hitchcock, Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando.