Malaysia’s Old Cinemas

There’s something sad about old cinemas. I’m talking about those stand-alone single screen cinemas that used to be a feature of every town above a certain size.

In their heyday of the 1950s and 60s, these theatres would have been the place to go for entertainment, where romances blossomed and friendships were forged. Within their cigarette smoke-stained walls screams were heard, tears were shed and laughs spilt depending on the film of the day.

Those days are long gone and the stand-alone cinema has been killed off by the invention of the video/DVD player,  multi-screen cineplexes attached to shopping malls, YouTube and so on.

The Coliseum Cinema, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. T...

A few have managed to survive as cinemas by catering to a particular niche market. For example Malaysia’s oldest cinema, the Coliseum Theatre, which opened in 1920 was until very recently screening Tamil movies. I read that it closed down in 2010. I hope the building, and the illustrious Coliseum Cafe next door, are not in danger of demolition.

Dozens of defunct Rex’s, Cathay’s and Lido’s are scattered around Malaysia. Some have found temporary new lives as snooker halls or furniture showrooms but many are just waiting to be demolished, or already have been.

Here are a few that I have snapped in my travels.

Rex Cinema, Port Klang

Cathay Cinema, Port Klang

Coates Theatre (1953), Kuala Kubu Bharu

Rex Cinema, Kuala Terengganu

Wah Onn Theatre, Batu Gajah

Sign Outside the Sungai Lembing Cinema.

Tanjung Harapan, Port Klang

Tanjung Harapan translates as ‘Cape of Good Hope’ but apart from being next to the sea I cannot imagine the Malaysian version has much in common with its more famous South African namesake.

This may be a shack but it still enjoys satellite TV.

Tanjung Harapan is a 2km  stretch of tree-lined shoreline bordering the Port Klang Golf Resort and is a calm oasis amid the bustling industrial estates and shipping terminals of the surrounding North Port of Port Klang.

Container terminal at Port Klang.

People come here (mostly Malaysians) to enjoy the sea breezes, stroll along the walkway, to fish or to dine at one of the seafood restaurants which are built on stilts above the water’s edge.

Medan Muara Ikan Bakar seafood restaurant.

In an attempt to spruce up the area and make it more attractive to visitors they have constructed a replica Bugis schooner and embedded it in concrete on the walkway.

Bugis schooner at Tanjung Harapan.

Being a hot afternoon, I took a refreshing guava juice from one of the mobile vendors. The stall next door sold an excellent spicy fried egg sandwich (better than it sounds!).

Guava juice seller at Tanjung Harapan.

There is a grey sandy beach but not really suitable for swimming – too many discarded sharp objects and lots of rubbish. Someone had left a gold coloured figurine half buried in the sand looking like a Hindu version of King Canute, defying the waves to wash him away. I wonder if he is still there.

Welcome to Tanjung Harapan.