From small radio station to media entertainment giant, Chayaboon Chuanchaisit tells us what makes his business tick.
If you haven’t been to a Centerpoint playhouse or theatre, there’s a good chance you may have heard of one of their events. Centerpoint Entertainment is the event host and organiser behind popular concerts such as Kele of Bloc Party and Story of the Year and are the sole provider of lights and sound for music gatherings like Big Mountain Music Festival. But of course, one of their biggest components, among many, are the movie studios.
As we pull into the entertainment complex, you can tell there is some serious filming going on here. Perhaps there’s a Hollywood star to be spotted? Lights and sound crew with heavy equipment dart back and forth between their vans and the three huge film studios that open up to the parking lot. Walking into the entertainment giant’s headquarters and studios, I am immediately impressed. The main entrance is sleek and clean. The wall panels are smooth and black with slight Victorian accents that pop against the bare, expansive foyer. On the other side of the room I can see a giant wooden ball reaching to the ceiling, the entrance to one of Centerpoint’s theatres. We are then escorted to a meeting room upstairs.
The studio is designed like a home, with a dining room and living room decked out in the same black, minimal-Victorian design where employees or film crew can take a break. Complete with comfy leather chairs, a giant flat-screen TV, Blue-Ray DVD player and high-tech speakers, the meeting room means business (and maybe a little fun). The door quietly opens and in walks Chayaboon Chuanchaisit, Centerpoint Entertainment’s managing director. He’s every bit as smooth and cool as the building we’re in, and to be honest, maybe even a little bit intimidating. But once he says hello, the gentleness in his voice could put anyone at ease.
Once we sat down, of course I couldn’t help but ask if any Hollywood movies were filmed, or being filmed, at the studios. He smiles and admits that yes, over 50% of the movies shot at their studios are foreign films, including Hollywood movies. However, he was very secretive about what movies were underway. (At the time, Ryan Gosling was in town and I had to wonder…) In addition to foreign films, the studios are mainly used for shooting television commercials.
But Centerpoint Entertainment is more than just movie studios and high-profile concerts. In addition to studio rentals and event organising, they also have their own talent and modelling agency; top-of-the-line light and sound system rental; their own magazines, Touch and Ten; and their own radio and television programmes they produce for GMM Grammy. There is also the Centerpoint Playhouse on the seventh floor of CentralWorld where many small concerts, product launchings and university plays are shown. The playhouse is not to be confused with the Centerpoint entertainment area also located at CentralWorld, which serves as a teen hangout and dance practice area. Although the entertainment area is owned and operated by his brother, the two are not part of the same company.
Even with so many components, Chayaboon insists there is still more to be done. ‘We are not a complete entertainment company yet,’ says. ‘But in the future I hope so.’
Although Centerpoint hosts huge events and is a well-known name among many younger locals, they are not the biggest entertainment company in Thailand. Chayaboon points out, however, that while companies like Moonstar Studios are bigger, they don’t have a publishing entity or the high-calibre light and sound system that Centerpoint has, which gives them a huge advantage. To further increase his company’s advantage he hopes to start publishing both of Centerpoint's magazines in English as well; the Thai-language versions are available for free through iTunes.
Chayaboon got his start in the media and entertainment industry while at Chulalongkorn University where he was studying accounting. During this time, he joined his friends who were studying mass communications in an advertising project. They entered their project in a university contest and won. ‘At that point, I thought to myself, “I like this way, this creative style."' And that is when he says he decided he needed to pursue that path in his life.
When the university opened up a piece of their land in Siam Square for public management, Chayaboon and his friends entered the bidding process to manage it. Again they won. Many readers might have known it as ‘Center Point at Siam Square’. It quickly became an incredibly popular hangout for local teenagers. Together the friends produced radio programmes, which he calls ‘street radio’. Shoppers in the Siam Square area would be able to listen to radio shows and music broadcast live. Chayaboon got the idea for this when he was a child on a trip to Universal Studios where announcers got park guests excited for various rides and attractions over the loud speaker system. He wanted to recreate that vibe in Siam Square. As of now, Centerpoint Entertainment is the only radio programme in Thailand using street radio in this way. He hopes to expand into Internet radio so that people have access to their station on their iPhones and other hand-held devices.
With Centerpoint having grown into the large entertainment company it is today, it helps that Thailand is fast becoming an increasingly popular filming location for foreign films, thanks in large part to low costs. ‘Thailand is the best in Asia right now in terms of filming locations,’ Chayaboon asserts. Even when filming in other nearby countries such as Laos or Cambodia, filmmakers have to stop in Thailand first, where they rent equipment and hire staff to take along.
Chayaboon hopes to incorporate a special effects studio within the next couple of years in hopes of attracting even more filmmakers. One component of that would be a water tank to shoot underwater scenes, a 15-metre deep glass one to allow for shooting from the outside. ‘If we have that, we’ll be the first in Thailand to have it,’ he says excitedly. He also plans to bring in concerts from abroad in the future, such as big-time singers from the US and the UK.
He hopes to someday soon be within the top five entertainment companies in Thailand. ‘Right now we are in the top ten, but we’d like to be in the top five,’ he admits. ‘Work in entertainment is not routine work. There’s a challenge with new people and new customers every day. That’s why I like it. It’s never boring!’
From small radio station to major mass entertainment company, Centerpoint looks certain to remain right in the middle of things at any level.
05/06/2012 - 10:54