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Old Hong Kong Cinemas

7/10/2022 - 22/12/2022


Early theatre buildings in Hong Kong were constructed mainly for staging Cantonese opera. Towards the end of the 19th century, several theatres opened in the Tai Ping Shan District where the Chinese resided, including the Tung Hing Theatre, Sing Ping Theatre and Ko Shing Theatre. As the film industry flourished, theatres started to play movies in between show times using projectors imported from overseas, hoping to attract more audiences. Gradually, new purpose-built movie theatres opened in many more locations, and going to the cinema became a common leisure activity for Hong Kong people.

The design of theatres in the past had evolved in response to the prevalent architectural trends and various art movements. For instance, early theatre buildings were inspired by opera houses in the West, and successive ones were built in the Art Deco style during the 1920s and 1930s. After World War II, like many other buildings, the design of cinema premises was influenced by Modernism and Brutalism. Varied in aesthetics, materials and construction techniques, theatre buildings naturally became remarkable landmarks of each district, such as the Tai Ping Theatre, Yau Ma Tei Theatre and State Theatre. However, running a cinema in a purpose-built building was no longer viable at one point due to multiple factors caused by the rapid pace of urban development and economic growth. In the mid-1980s, mini theatres began to emerge in large housing projects and shopping malls, whereas numerous cinema buildings from earlier periods ceased operations and were demolished eventually.

In the years when television was not yet common, moviegoing was a popular form of public entertainment and the cinema offered a space for people to meet up. Through a selection of 34 historical photographs, this exhibition sheds light on theatres which used to stand in different parts of the city, inviting visitors to reminisce about the bygone era.

The photographs in the exhibition are selected from the collections of the following organisations and reproduced with permission of the Government of the HKSAR. We are grateful for the support from:
Information Services Department
Public Records Office, Government Records Service
Hong Kong Heritage Museum
Hong Kong Museum of History


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