Friday, September 25, 2009

AKC Cinema

Karu asked me if I remember the AKC Cinema at Gillman Camp. Actually in 1977 when I spent four-and-a-half months there in the School of Combat Engineers, this cinema was no longer around. But I managed to find a photo from Tom O’brien’s Memories of Singapore website. Below it is a photo that I took of the same building recently. As you can see, there is not much change.

I believe besides this AKC Cinema in Gillman Barracks, as Gillman Camp was called in the pre-SAF days, there must be several others like it in the other British camps. I recall that there was one at Dover Road, near the junction with Clementi Road. It was called Kent Cinema. It was open to SAF personnel and I went there twice. I did not enjoy it very much as I kept feeling that we didn't belong there. Anyway, I asked Tom O’brien if he remembered this place and this is what he wrote.

“I do remember the Cinema on Dover Road. It was situated next door to the Warren Golf Course, on the corner of Dover and Clementi Road. It was quite a small cinema, with a six lane bowling alley and was air conditioned. That's one of the reasons I used to hang out there. Although when it got busy, as kids, we were asked to sit outside at the back, where there was a seating area. It was called the Kent Cinema and belonged to the AKC* (Army Kinema Corporation). It was managed and run by local staff. The two managers were Tamil I think. They didn't really like us being there, but providing we purchased food or drinks, then we were tolerated. I remember we used to get told off quite often for our behaviour.”

I believe these two places that I have blogged about, and others like it, must hold many pleasant memories for our British friends like John Harper, Tom O’brien, Brian Mitchell and Tom Brown. I hope they can tell us more about such places after reading this post.

* The Army Kinema Corporation was a large organisation based in Croydon, responsible for providing the British army everywhere with film entertainment.


Brian and Tess said...

Fascinating that the cinema is still there - again one of the few relics from the era, particularly as its such a small building!

Most UK forces bases has cinemas and for RAF bases these were always called Astra. Checking the old map of RAF Changi there is an Astra there but strangely enough I cannot remember ever going there. What I do recall very clearly are outdoor film shows, some of these were I think shown on one part of the Changi golf club (Netheravon Road) but others might have better memories than I do of exactly where they were shown.

I recall seeing some Elvis Presley films (or at least one, 'Jailhouse Rock' which had to be his perhaps only memorable film!). I think I mentioned in one of my blogs my only memory of visiting one of the large City film theatres to see 'Ben Hur' very exciting with everyone on their feet yelling during the chariot race.

We had no tv in those days of the early sixties and film shows were quite an event.

JollyGreenP said...

As Brian has said, the RAF equivalent was the Astra cinema. There is a photo of the one at RAF Tengah on Memorie sof Singapore website The Astra at Changi was at the junction of Calshot Road on Tangmere Road next to the Corporal's Club overlooking the golf course. I remember seeing several Charlie Chaplin films as well as the great spoof film called "The Great Dictator".

At the Tengah Astra most of the airmen could not be bothered to collect the 5 cent deposit for return of their coke bottles and so when the film was finished all the children in the audience would make a scramble for all the empty bottles collecting as many as you could carry and taking them back to the foyer to collect what was a welcome addition to your pocket money.

The RAF Astras were managed on a part time basis by RAF personnel. I think the manager at Tengah when we were there was Sgt Ashley but I wouldn't swear to it.

Back in the UK I became friendly with the projectionist at the Astra for RAF Linton On Ouse and used to help out from time to time dimming the lights at the start feeding the second reel into the second projector and doing the change over, you had to watch for a markerspot in one corner showing that the reel was finishing and then start the second projector for a seamles switchover. The projectors were illuminated by a carbon arc lamp that was fed by a massive diode valve in a metal cabinet about two feet wide by five feet high. It was an awesome sight.

alex said...

I remember Selarang Barracks has one cinema, I don’t think it was open to outsiders, but the set up is that of a cinema, with a proper “projector room’ and "silver screen". It is situated left of the barracks.

Dogcom said...

Kent Theater was the only one I've visited during National Service. The few times we went we caught the "Carry on..." movies and I remember one "Up Pompeii". Those days it was a lot of trill for us cos quite a lot of the movies were "R" rated in a sense : ).

mal shah said...

my dad was asst supt adp. i am familiar with depot rd and keat hong. i learn swimming at gillman pool, enjoyed the juke box songs and naffi food. good old days.

Ng Wei Min said...

I watched a few movies at Kent on Dover Rd, and I remember they played "God save our gracious Queen" before the movie started, and we had to all stand up. I did not sing the UK anthem, because we were an independent republic by then. Lots of British, Aussie n NZ forces in Singapore then as they were just beginning to pull out of Singapore.

John Bell said...

I us to go to the Kent A.K.C on Dover road a lot as we lived in the chip bee estate in Holland village.Also the one at Gilmore bks.As i was in Singas in the late 60's i got to see some great films shortly after their release in the UK.They carried the British film board rating and were not as heavily censored as the ones shown locally.We use to get round having to stand up for the National anthem by taking our time in the foyer buying our drinks & sweets before we went in.They were air conditioned if i remember rightly.

John Bell said...

My memory is not what it us too be that should read Gillman Bks not Gillmore Bks.

alan cottrell said...

before the brand new air conditioned AKC Kent cinema and bowling alley opened in Dover Road, Singapore about late 1965, it's predecessor was in an old Nissan hut on the Ayer Rajah Road close to its junction with Buena Vista Road. it had no aircon, just some rackety old fans that hung from the ceiling. i remember seeing 2 films there - one was Day of the Triffids, (the first X rated film i watched legally) just after my 16th birthday. I also watched the epic Ben Hur as one of the final films ever shown there before the kent opened in mid 1965. it ran for 3hrs 45 mins and I sweated more sitting watching the film, than any of the horses in the famous chariot race scene. The cinema was managed by the father of a class mate of mine at Alexandra Grammar School - their surname was Bulger. Funny what you remember from 50+ years ago but cant even remember what happened yesterday.