Old theatres used to have "flight seats", "live narration", "film racing", "win a car on your way out" and "sneaking in". What did those terms mean? Which movie theatre was the first proper cinema in Hong Kong? Which one has the most rumours as a haunted theatre? Many film buffs still have fond memories of the uniquely constructed grand old cinemas and their impressive designs that became landmarks, as well as the hustle and bustle of mobile food stalls selling grilled squid and roasted chestnuts outside theatre entrances.
The Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA)'s new exhibition "Down Memory Lane: Movie Theatres of the Olden Days" is being held from today (December 6) to March 2 next year for movie-goers to immerse themselves in nostalgia and have a taste of sentiments from the past.
Guests at today's opening ceremony included the Head of the HKFA, Ms Janet Young; a veteran painter of giant film posters, Mr Chow Keung; movie stars Mr Wong Chau-sang, Mr Chen Kuan-tai, Mr Bruce Liang, Mr Pai Piao, Mr Yu Yung, Ms Lo Fun and Mr Ngo Ka-nin; the Chairman of the Board of the Hong Kong Theatres Association, Ms June Wong; and the Vice Chairman of the Hong Kong Theatres Association, Mr Chui Hin-wai.
The exhibition hall of the HKFA has been transformed into a lobby of an old movie theatre. Not to be missed are six giant film posters, each measuring 4 feet by 6 feet, on the films "Wong Fei-hung, King of Lion Dance" (1957), "The Legend of Purple Hairpin" (1959), "The Merdeka Bridge" (1959), "Love Without End" (1961), "Sun, Moon and Star" (1961) and "The Boxer from Shantung" (1972). The posters were specially repainted by Mr Chow Keung for this event to bring back old memories. In addition to the posters, interviews with Mr Chow and his process in pre-drawing, laying out grids, painting onto billboards and the calligraphy he employed are also being shown on video.
In the old days, a theatre was not only characterised by its architectural features. The eye-catching and huge movie billboards hanging on the walls added prestige and uniqueness to each theatre. Each giant movie billboard consisted of dozens of wooden panels. The process of painting and putting the pieces together required very skilful craftsmanship.
Born in Vietnam, Mr Chow is not only a skilled movie poster artist but also a martial arts master. He started his apprenticeship in the trade as a teenager to learn the basics and slowly moved up the ladder to become a poster artist. In the 1960s, he came to Hong Kong and eventually opened a martial arts school and at the same time worked as a movie stuntman. He was later recommended to rejoin the movie poster trade and painted for many theatres. With big theatres being renovated gradually to become mini-theatres and the adoption of the use of advanced computerised printing techniques, the theatres in Hong Kong stopped hanging hand-painted movie billboards from 2000 onwards.
The archival treasures on display at the exhibition include the film poster painting of "Gold Diggers" (1952) donated by Mr Jackie Chan, archival items donated by the Yau Ma Tei Theatre and the Kwun Chung Theatre, old photos, promotional film booklets and leaflets, souvenir programmes of film openings, movie tickets, handbills, seating plans and film schedules from the 1930s to '60s. Visitors can weigh themselves on scales with tickets of the type that used to be installed in theatres.
The exhibition will also present information on the development of Hong Kong theatres, various cinema circuits and the alliances of film distributors and production companies. Another highlight is the chance to learn interesting film terms and cinema trivia which can take people down memory lane to recall good times spent in theatres in the past.
Admission is free for the exhibition. For enquiries, please call 2739 2139.
Ends/Friday, December 6, 2013
The opening ceremony of the "Movie Theatres of the Olden Days" exhibition was held today (December 6) at the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA). Photo shows the Head of the HKFA, Ms Janet Young (back row, first right); veteran painter of film posters Mr Chow Keung (back row, fifth left); movie stars Mr Wong Chau-sang (back row, third left), Mr Chen Kuan-tai (back row, sixth left), Mr Bruce Liang (back row, fourth left), Mr Pai Piao (back row, fifth right), Mr Yu Yung (back row, fourth right), Ms Lo Fun (back row, first left) and Mr Ngo Ka-nin (front row, first right); the Chairman of the Board of the Hong Kong Theatres Association, Ms June Wong (back row, second left); and other movie stars and guests.
From left: Mr Chow, Mr Wong and Mr Chen at the opening ceremony of "Movie Theatres of the Olden Days".
Mr Ngo at the opening ceremony of "Movie Theatres of the Olden Days".
The "Movie Theatres of the Olden Days" exhibition.