Monday, May 22, 2006

Blast From My Past Pt2 - Old cinemas and makan places

I have MANY fond memories of the old cinemas in my hometown of Melaka/Malacca. Back then, cinema tickets were much easier to obtain. Even before the days of pirated DVDs, VCDs and VHS, you could just drop by any cinema and get tickets before the movie. Ticket buying was efficient then... and to have tickets to sit upstrairs was considered a luxury. The old ladies manning the ticket counters simply ticked away at the choices. Not many people know about the old cinemas nowadays... even in KL, I am sure the younger generation have no idea what were the cinemas existent back in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. I find that cinemas of old were much more relaxing than the packed and hectic cineplexes of today.

Read this for some backstory... Click Click!

Let me tell you about the cinemas/theatres/panggung wayang we used to have in Melaka. They were in operation up to around the early 90s until the last ones gave way to the Mahkota Parade cineplex.

First off is Rex cinema. I remember that the seating was divided into 3 classes. In the 80s, 3rd class seating was only 70sen (it had a different ticket counter facing the carpark). My dad used to bribe the doorman to let me and him into a movie for the price less than 2 1st class seats. Rex was famous for English movies.

Behind Rex was Sun cinema. I don't remember anything of this cinema except that it burned down. I only remember it was an eerie place and they had reruns of movies like The Exorcist. Cinemas back then often had reruns for 'Today Only' as well as some soft porn. Around the same area was Central cinema, famous for bangsawan shows. I never knew this place since it was destroyed after I was born.

Adjacent to Rex was of course the famous Federal cinema. It had an equally famous Chinese name, Lien Pang. It featured the old Shaw brothers movies and the side lane of Federal had all these vendors selling junk food like the dried sotong (Ken Ken) and the prawn crackers similar to Double Decker of today (but of higher quality and packed in transparent stripey plastic). The side lanes also led to City Park, Melaka's video arcade center and also housed a famous yong tau foo stall as well as a palmistry center. The famous hee kiaw and fish porridge vendor in front has since moved to the stalls beside Grand Continental Hotel.

Down in Bukit Baru, there was Kammah cinema which was an anomaly since it was so far from town. We only could go there once my dad bought his old Austin. Kammah was famous for reruns until it was refurbished in the mid 80s. Then it started showing newer HK movies. It had a red/purple velvet interior.

Up in Tengkera/Tranquerah, we had the infamous Oriental cinema (which used to be called Roxy). In both incarnations, the cinema was said to be haunted. Upstairs, a couple of seats was ribboned off preventing audience from accidentally sitting on seats which was reserved for the spirits. Oriental cinema also had a famous hee kiaw noodle vendor who is still selling today in the shoplot opposite the old Oriental building.

In Jalan Bendahara, there were Capitol and Savoy cinemas. Capitol didn't have aircon and had a tall ceiling with ceiling fans attached to them. Its toilets were located outside the building. Savoy was famous for chinese horror stories as well as the chinese kungfu movies (where there's always a sifu and a student with harsh training methods - Jackie Chan etc). The famous deaf muah chee vendor is still at the old Savoy location.

Lido cinema at Kee Ann road (now converted to Formosa supermarket) used to show Hindi and Malay movies). I probably only watched one or 2 movies there.

Finally there's Cathay cinema - very famous for blockbuster movies (both chinese and American). Behind Cathay is one of the oldest satay celup places... Kingtu satay celup.

Our family travelled to the cinema either by foot or trishaw. My dad always haggled for the price when we took the trishaw. When I was old enough, my dad and I used to alight the trishaw when we approached the bridges that went over the Melaka river to help push the trishaw over them.

Those were the days indeed - with the most famous restaurants in Melaka being New World and Bamboo House. Soft drinks back then were of course the big 500ml F&N sodas as well as Kickapoo, Sinalco, Green Spot and even Magnolia chococolate milk in bottles. I miss these times.

More Blasts in Pt3...