Formerly known as the New Excelsior, the Waziya building is the oldest cinema in Yangon — built in the 1920s — and is situated the heart of what was once known as “cinema row” in the center of the city on Bogyoke Road.
Burma was known to have one of the most vibrant movie industries in Asia in the first half of the 20th century, spurring the rise of several theaters that would eventually make up Cinema Row in downtown Rangoon. That however began to quickly dissipate along with much of the cultural composition of the country under junta rule in the 1960s.
Today, Wazihya Cinema still stands — serving as one of Yangon’s only Burmese-only movie cinemas in town, and hosts scores of movie goers each day who file into the classic-style complex after work to catch a quick flick.
Luckily, much of the building has been retained, including the entryway, complete with teak art panels and large hand crafted wooden carvings on the doors. Still, one of the two large staircases situated at the front of the building is not in such great shape and was completely cordoned off 2012 when a portion of the ceiling collapsed onto it.
Though the facade is mostly overwhelmed with small shops, one can still admire the four large Romanesque white columns that hold up the entrance canopy.
Not without a tumultuous history, Waziya began as a live theater in 1950, but later transitioned to a cinema and was later nationalized in 1968 and moved back to being a live theater by 1985. In 1999, the Ministry of Information leased it to the Myanmar Motion Picture Association (MMPA) to operate as a cinema – a status it has since retained.
“A shared vision between MMPA and the Yangon Heritage Trust is to renovate and restore the historical Waziya into a modern cinema and performance arts space in the center of Yangon,” the Yangon Heritage Trust said in an article about the building.
According to one worker, such renovations could take place as soon as this year.