(This article was first posted on Yesterday.sg on 8 Jul 2006
Ravi Veloo is going to be very disappointed. In 2001, he wrote; “There is now a movement in England to preserve its older cinema halls, some of which are quite beautiful. Fortunately, there is a similar move to conserve the lovely old Capitol Theatre in Singapore, a historical and marvellous building, and one which holds a lot of fond memories for many a Singaporean.”
Last Sunday’s Life Section of the Straits Times carried an article headlined, Capitol Downhill. It went on to describe the derelict state of the 76-year old grand dame of the cinemas in Singapore, saying that it was ‘reeking of urine and its doors rotting. Unless a new owner can be found for it soon, Capitol looks set to join the ranks of Odeon, to be demolished and replaced by a spanking new shopping complex or hotel,.
Blogger Readymade (Farewell to my Capitol) does not believe there will be any takers for this building and fears that the beautiful structure would be torn down soon. “Despite its nostalgic value, a check with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) shows that it is not gazetted as a conservation building.” said the ST report. Or as Readymade so aptly puts it “Nostalgia alone doesn't count for much here.” So he asks us to “take a minute or two to remember the grand old dame of Singapore cinemas”. And this is what I will do.
There are 3 things that I remember about Capitol.
Firstly, the unique ornate design of the cinema hall itself: very high ceiling, stately columns, a pair of maidens on white winged horses and zodiac signs. Watching a movie from the circle seats was really quite an unforgettable experience.
Secondly, I remember the huge shiny curtains and stage. I recall there were a couple of occasions when they had live performance on stage before the actual show began. Unfortunately, I cannot recall other details.
Thirdly, any mention of Capitol Theatre will bring to my mind the unforgettable movie; The Chinese Boxer (龙虎斗), starring Wang Yu (the One-Armed Swordsman) and Lo Lieh. I remember what a thrill it was to watch this trend-setting martial arts movie with my brother, David one afternoon after school. Although the story was a no-brainer; you know, the typical Chinese hero vs Japanese baddie story, and the action was nothing to compare with Bruce Lee’s or Jet Li’s or any of the other kungfu action flicks of today; but it was a totally new experience for us in 1970. Some of the unforgettable scenes include Wang’s character practising his ‘iron fists’ (铁砂掌), and the grand show-down between the two, literally, fuming antagonists in the snow.
I don’t remember any other movie that I have seen in this theatre. Can you?