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Curtains on Cathay Cineplex

Paid a visit to Cathay Cineplex, because it is shutting for good tomorrow, 26 June, after 16 years in The Cathay at 2 Handy Road.

Media company mm2 Asia, which acquired Cathay’s cineplexes in Singapore in 2017, said the decision to close Cathay Cineplex was a business one, part of “cost rationalisation for its cinema operations”.

In simple English - the cineplex business in Singapore is bleeding money.

Actually, the cinematic lineage of Cathay Cineplex goes back further, more than eight decades to 1939, when Cathay Cinema opened in the Cathay Building. At the time, Cathay Building was the tallest building not just in Singapore, but all of Southeast Asia; Cathay Cinema was Singapore’s first air-conditioned theatre.

Cathay Building. Credit: Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

Cathay Cinema operated from 1939 to 1942, and from 1946 to 2000, the only break happening because of the Japanese Occupation. From 2000 to 2006, Cathay Building and Cathay Cinema were redeveloped into The Cathay and Cathay Cineplex; only the iconic facade of the cinema was conserved.

Cathay Cinema in 1953. Credit: SPH Media Trust.

The name of the building was derived from the name of the cinema or cineplex. The Cathay won’t be the same after Cathay Cineplex is gone.

When I was younger and watched more movies, I frequented the cineplexes in the Orchard area - Lido Cineplex at Shaw House, Cathay Cineleisure Orchard, and Cathay Cineplex at The Cathay. Another landmark from my younger days will cease to be.

The large TV screen near the box office showing the latest trailers.

The box office.

The escalators to the floor above, where the halls were.

The entrance to the halls.

The tenants of The Cathay don’t seem to be doing very well. Expect more black dashes to appear on the tenant list in the months to come.


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