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Saturday, February 18, 2012

King Kong’ on giant TV

Cinemimi [Saturday, February 18, 2012]
MY first experience of watching a movie was with my family in a cinema hall in the early 1980s. It was at the Cathay Cinema in Jalan Temenggong, Malacca. The movie theatre has since closed.

Read more: King Kong’ on giant TV - Central - New Straits Times

I clearly remember the movie. It was King Kong, produced in 1976 and directed by John Guillermin. The film was being replayed in my hometown cinema.
The next day, my 3-year-old brother told the neighbours that he watched King Kong on a big TV. Indeed, that was also my first impression of the silver screen.
My recent assignment led me to Coliseum Cinema in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. I had to “bribe” my husband with food to persuade him to join me for the Tamil movie Rajapattai, starring Vickram.
We took the LRT to the Masjid Jamek station. First, we had dinner at the Coliseum Cafe, which was also located in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. It was originally known as Coliseum Cafe Hostel in 1921.
It was built around the same time as the cinema, by the same owner. The higher floors of the cafe were the hostel, but not anymore.
Walking into the cafe felt like a trip to the past. The cafe’s logo, CCH, was on the walls inside. There were also coat hangers and hat stands, well preserved from the past. The rustic atmosphere, with dim lighting and terrazzo floors, reminded me of my old kitchen tiles in Malacca.
My house was also built in the 1920s.
My husband said the cafe reminded him of the cowboy saloons in the movies. The food was great and the cafe’s popular appetiser of bread, butter and cheese with crispy fried onions was delicious.
We then went to the cinema. Its facade had a touch of neoclassical architecture. To my surprise, the cinema tickets were still handwritten at the counter. This was rare as most cinemas, including the Odean and all Lotus Five Star Cinemas, have a digital ticketing system.
My husband asked if he could pick his seat and the reply was: “Free seating, sir”.
There were posters of Maruthur Gopalan Ramachandran, popularly known by his initials MGR, a famous actor from the 1960s from the South Indian movie scene at the ticket booth,. There was also an old framed picture of South Indian superstar Rajinikanth.
Our tickets cost RM12 each for balcony seats, known as first-class. A ticket for the lower floor, called second-class, was priced at RM10.
As we opened the door to enter, we were hit by a waft of mustiness. However, I was strangely struck by a feeling of grandeur when I stood on the edge of the balcony and looked down at the lower floor.
I felt special. Now I know how the rich must have felt on the balcony.

The cinema was clean, at least when I was there, with very few people in the hall. There were a number of empty seats. It could be because it was the 9pm show on a Tuesday night.
I had bought kuaci (melon seeds) from an elderly lady at a small stall in the corner on the ground floor of the cinema. Popcorn is not sold at The Coliseum. The stall owner, who told me she was known as Tee-Q, said she had been selling snacks in that spot for 40 years.
She was over 70 years old and said the best years for the cinema industry were in the 1990s.
The toilet in the cinema reminded me of that in my convent school. It had white tiles, was clean but small, and was lit with fluorescent lights. The movie sound system was enjoyable and I had no complaints about bout the picture quality. The air-conditioning was working well and it was comfortable sitting in the hall.
However, while I was enjoying the movie, a cockroach ran into one of my shoes. I did not scream or create a scene. Instead, my husband and I had a good laugh about it after the movie. My husband was glad the cockroach did not crawl up his jeans, because he might have jumped down the balcony.
My trip to the 92-year-old cinema was pleasant. I hope the cinema will always remain the same and never to be demolished. Sheila Sri Priya

Read more: King Kong’ on giant TV - Central - New Straits Times


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