From Kachang To Popcorn (Part 1)

When was the last time I visited the cinema? My son is probably the one who is very keen to watch the large screen while my daughter prefer to snack (especially the popcorn) in the aircon and cushioned comfort. Definitely much have changed for the large screen since my time till now – at least in the past we were cruching 5 cents or 10 cents kachang puteh and now the popcorn is more expensive than my movie ticket in the past!

I came across this DVD Oliver Twist when I was shopping at that new Giant outlet at Pasir Ris/Tampines sometime last month.

The first time I watched this movie was probably in the 70s when my godsisters brought me to Cathay Cinema (or Capitol…?).

Prices of movie has gone up trememdously and also the movie ticket appearance has changed too. Here is a peep at the old movie ticket in the 60s and it’s price;

Credit : Singapore National Museum

Here is a postcard of the Cathay Cinema in 1954;

You may see the Cathay Building in the background of this photo of Bras Basah Road in the past;

The Capitol in the 60s (you may still see the Tram line hanging in the air);

Frankly I’ve not been to this 2 places for a long long time. It’s so convenient to watch a movie nowadays – just drop by any Cineplex in any town centre and you have the whole lists for you to choose. In the past, we had to travel quite a distance to the cinema if we were not staying nearby. Luckily, my godmother was staying at Beatty Road which was walking distance to those cinemas at New World Amusement Park. In fact in the past, most cinemas were standalone buildings and there was no such thing as cinemplex. So you went to the cinema in the past and the sole purpose was to watch a movie; nowadays it’s shopping, eating, game arcade, library, etc…all in one building.

Though eating and shopping were not in the same building as the cinema in the past, but they were usually located nearby like those at Odeon Cinema in the past. See this 70s map below;

The above map shows the location of Odeon and Jubilee Theatre (directly opposite to Odeon) in 1976. The Odeon Theatre is now Odeon Tower while the Jubilee Theatre was gone and the space occupied by Raffles Hotel (expansion).

How many of us still remember the bomb scare at Odeon in 1963? See the Jubilee Theatre in the below photo of that bomb scare;

Here is a better view of the Odeon Theatre;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

Frankly between Odeon and Jubilee, I find Jubilee much more attractive theatre to “archive” if possible. Let’s take a look at the old Jubilee.

Jubilee Theatre in the 50s;

In 1985, the Jubilee getting ready to go;

Before it go, take a final look at this pair of lion head;

and not forgetting the grand interior;

Here is the favourite snack for the movies in the past – Kachang Putel which probably cost about 10cents to 20cents depending on types;

Above 5 Photo Creadits : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

So that’s how the Victorian style playhouse theatre named Jubilee Hall located on the 3rd floor of Raffles Hotel come about.

OK here is another cinema where one usually will not be able to go unless he/she has a car or some form of transport in the past – Jurong Drive-In Cinema. It was opened on 14 July 1971 and closed on 30 September 1985.

Credit : Adeline Tan and Cathay Organisation

I remember I’ve been there twice only as I really don’t find it comfortable watching the movie inside a car. The aircon was usually turned off as the car engine was off too and the speakers are put into the car. It looked something like this;

Photo Credit :

Those who drove there to watch the movie were usually couples, but did they really watch the show or ….?

Now most of the old standalone cinemas building have been converted to Church or other uses. Came across this Fairfield Methodist Church in March 2007 at Maxwell Road;

and who can tell that it’s actually the Metropole Theatre (shown in the postcard during the 60s) in the past;

So the R(A)s movies were finally approved to be screened in the cinemas in the 90s, I think, but it didn’t seems to survive for long…except for one cinema that is still surviving – Yangtze Cinema. Though I’ve been there before but I’ve yet to watch a show in that cinema! Heard it’s called the “Cheekopek” cinema (a cinema for those cheeky old men).

The Yangtze Cinema located at Pearls Centre, Eu Tong Sen street;

Here is The Majestic theatre nearby;

It’s was converted into a shopping mall since 2003. It was built in 1927 by the tin mining and rubber magnate Mr. Eu Tong Sen specially for his wife who loved Cantonese Opera. So it was known as Tien Yien Moh Toi Theatre for the Cantonese opera then. Later the Shaw Brother rented it and renamed it as Queen’s Theatre for screen Cantonese movies. After the Japanese Occupation in 1945, the Majetic Film company rented it and renamed it as Majestic Theatre. In 1956 Cathay Organisation bought over it from the Eu family, and continued screening Chinese movies until 1998.

We should not confused this renamed Queen’s Theatre with the one at Geylang Lor 42 which was also known as Queen’s Theatre in the 70s.

So we have Majestic Theatre, Queen’s Theatre; do we have King’s Theatre? Yes we did, at Kim Tian Road (Tiong Bahru) then;

The King’s Theatre is now gone and the area is occupied by housing estate. The King’s Theatre and the Jubilee Theatre were owned by Eng Wah Organisation in the 60s.

Also not to forget about the once popular Prince Theatre located at Beach Road. Yes, think I watched that fantastic JAWS movie there. I used to go there as after watching the shows, I would shopped at that building. There were 2 shops inside selling those “branded” products like lighters, pen, wallets, belts, etc… Of course when the movie business went bad, the Prince theatre later became Prince 1 and Prince 2 as like most other cinemas. Of course in the same building, there was Jade Theatre too and then later Jade 1 and Jade 2. Both Prince and Jade were opened in 1977 by Shaw Organisation at located at Shaw Tower.

This is the new Shaw Plaza Twin Heights which is a total “Face Lift” from the old Hoover Cinema at Balestier Road;

I remember driving to the multi-storey carpark behind on weekend to sell my used car as it was popular to use some designated multi-storey carparks  as “Used Car Mart” then.

Whenever I pick up my wife at Concourse, I will passed by Golden Theatre at Beach Road;

Though now I will think of the delicious curry puff at the basement of that building, but in the past it’s totally different. I used to patronise one shop there selling posters. I bought some and resell them house to house when I was 17 or 18 years old earning some pocket money – my first outdoor sales job hehe!

Well watching a movie and going to the theatre or cinema was such a memorable thing in the past but not now anymore. It cost much more to watch a movie for a family of four including meals and snacks. So renting a dvd to watch at home quickly catches up for us, at least. Unless it’s English shows like Harry Potter where the kids enjoy it, else it’s no go to the large screen.

To be continued in Part 2…

27 Responses to “From Kachang To Popcorn (Part 1)”

  1. 1 profkingsfield2004 Monday, May 7, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    I saw the movie “El Cid” at the Odeon in 1966. It was a morning matinee show for school kids and the ticket was S$1.00. I remembered the cinema had a bomb explosion in 1964 in the car park area (car park was to the left of cinema if you stand on the Jubilee Cinema side).

    Walking passed Jubilee Cinema from Bras Basah Road was a small lane. Inside the lane was a mama stall selling “Sup Kambing”. In 1970 it was S$1.30 for a bowl with bread. There were many Mamas who patronized Jubilee Cinema because they screened Hindi movies. The only link with the Jubilee Cinema is Jubilee Hall of Raffles Hotel.

    On the side of Odeon Cinema to Bras Basah Road was a corner kopi-tiam which sold the best Cha Kway Teow. There was also a tailor shop “Asia Tailors”.

  2. 2 laokokok Tuesday, May 8, 2007 at 7:52 am

    Yes Peter, it was so much cheaper to watch a movie in the past especially for a family.

  3. 3 py Tuesday, May 8, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    Thank you for sharing about these cinemas. Now I have a better idea when my friends who are much older than me talks about some of these cinemas which were previously unheard of to me.

  4. 4 laokokok Wednesday, May 9, 2007 at 8:57 am

    Hi PY welcome here. Stay tune for the Part 2 of From Kachang to Popcorn!

  5. 5 Lam Chun See Wednesday, May 9, 2007 at 10:10 am

    LKK. You certainly covered a whole list of old favourite cinemas. But you seem to have missed out on a couple of big ones like Lido, Rex and Orchard. There were many more smaller ones in the suburbs like Savoy and Jurong in Jurong, Venus and another nearby one (can’t remember name. Coverted to Fishermen of Christ Church) in Queenstown. It all goes to show that Cinema going was such a big leisure activity those days.

    Also readers may not know that Prince was the largest theatre – in terms of seating capacity – in Spore until the arrival of Kallang at the Kallang Leisuredrome. Kallang later became the venue of several National Day Rally Speeches.

  6. 6 HamBearGer Wednesday, May 9, 2007 at 11:37 am

    My dad used to take me and my brother to watch chinese movies at Silver City, located inside Gay World. 50cents for one show. Seats are wooden folding type. On weekdays afternoon, Silver City offer 2 movies for the price of one. WeE went to these special offers quite often. There is a 10 mins break in between movies. Sitting on those hard wooden seats to watch 2 movies is really a pain on the butt, but still worth it.

  7. 7 laokokok Wednesday, May 9, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    Talking about those cinema seats, once I was bitten by those bugs and my legs were full of rashes – big big types!

  8. 8 laokokok Wednesday, May 9, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    You are right Chun See. In the 60s and 70s, TV were not so afordable by many, so watching a movie was the best form of entertainment then. Yep, Lido, Rex and Orchard were some big names too.

  9. 9 HamBearGer Thursday, May 10, 2007 at 9:05 am

    Besides the big cinemas in the city area, there were also many small kampong cinemas in the ulu areas. These kampong cinemas are open air, showing mostly very old films and “rejects”, films which never make it to the big screens. The cinemas are basically a piece of empty land, fenced up with zinc sheets on four sides. Long wooden benches were provided. If all the seats on the benches were occupied, you will have to stand, squat or sit on the ground to watch the show. If it rains, too bad.

  10. 10 Zep Tuesday, May 15, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    May I remark that you showcased Polanski’s “Oliver Twist”, which is from 2005. David Lean’s version is from 1948 and a real masterpiece (the b/w-version).

  11. 11 laokokok Tuesday, May 15, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    Thanks Zep for the info. I bought the 2005 version from GIANT without knowing it hehe.

  12. 12 modcentric Thursday, May 17, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    thanks for this really interesting post! unfortunately i only have hazy recollections of cinemas before today’s cineplexes.

    there is a kachang putih man outside peace centre who (according to my mother) used to sell kachang putih at one of the old cinemas. i can ask him – i always buy kachang putih from him when i’m in the area! it doesn’t cost 10 cents anymore though, now it’s $2.

  13. 13 Vivienne Quek Monday, May 28, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    Very awesome stuff you have here… impressed

  14. 14 laokokok Tuesday, May 29, 2007 at 9:23 am

    Thanks for visiting here, Vivienne and Modcentric.

  15. 15 Victor Yue Saturday, January 26, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    Somewhat late in joining in the fun. I remembered the days when my Mum was the sweeper inside Jubilee Cinema, and we kids would take over when she’s sick. Of course, we got to enjoy the movies like those by Chan Poh Chee. And when I was younger, my Grandma brought me there to watch Lam Kah Sing and Leong Sing Por’s movies. (^^)

    Thanks for the memories.

  16. 16 laokokok Monday, January 28, 2008 at 7:03 am

    Hi Victor Yue,
    Welcome here and it’s never too late to join in the fun with the rest.

  17. 17 Tony Chai Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Hi :

    Thanks for bringing back all the memories.

    I remembered I watched my 1st 2 Star Wars Movies at Odeon Theatre. At that time, this movie is only shown in this theatre. Only the 3rd part of the series was screened at other housing estate theatres but I regretted watching it at Regal Theatre because the sound system sucked. Now Regal Theatre is also gone case.

    I also remembered watching a lot of movies at the then Regal Theatre in the 80s. At that time, movies from Xin Yi Chen, were very popular and I watched a lot of such movies there. There were mostly comedies by Raymond Wong (Happy Ghost), Mak Ka (Aces Go Places), Sek Tin (mostly comedies).

  18. 18 laokokok Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 8:05 am

    Thanks Tony. Yes I like to watch those Happy Ghost movies too.

  19. 19 Karen Gan Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 12:24 am

    i missed the kacang that you talk about it…i loved the peanut with the sweet sugar and my brother loved the chick peas which i hated!
    Tell me about it..i just caught a movie in town and the popcorn with drink came up to $10!!! I remember the kacang puteh at 10cents!

  20. 20 laokokok Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 8:23 am

    It’s movie price is so costly nowadays plus the pop corns and drinks, etc…It cost a bomb for a family of 4 to watch a movie at a cinema.

  21. 21 Mike Friday, July 10, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    thanks for the memories, LKK.

    i was fortunate enough to see the grandeur and elegance of the cinema buildings and their auditoriums in the 70s and 80s. I just find that cineplexes these days are bland in comparison to the glorious architecture of the old pix theatres. bring back Capitol and its glorious screen.

  22. 22 laokokok Monday, July 13, 2009 at 7:45 am

    I believed many of us like you, Mike, will miss the grand interior of the Capitol Cinema. And not forgetting those eateries nearby the cinema.

  23. 23 melissa Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 12:59 pm


    thank you so much for this post! It brings back memories, I remember some of the cinemas, but not all though, how i wish i had taken pictures in the 80’s so i can remember it all now – my memory is so hazy because i was a child back in the 80’s, but thanks to your entry i now recall so many of these places! Thanks again!

  24. 24 Sean Saturday, July 4, 2015 at 3:20 am

    Hi me too. Star wars one and two and raiders of the lost ark at odeon cinema. I think the last movie there was breakdance.

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