Tue, Nov 27, 2018 - Page 14 News List

Iconic movie theater now just an empty shell
老台北人的電影記憶 已成廢墟

Taipei Movie Theater has lain abandoned for nearly 30 years in Taipei’s Ximending area.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Liberty Times

Taipei Movie Theater opened its doors for the first time during the 1950s and was the number one choice for today’s sexagenarians and septuagenarians to watch movies in their youth. Wu Yi-shui, who was the local borough warden for 12 terms, says: “Back then the place was full of moviegoers. A small army of ticket scalpers plied their trade up and down the streets.” At first, Taipei Movie Theater mainly showed Japanese films and was as popular as Taipei’s First Theater. It was only later that Chou Chen Yu-shu, who would become known as the “Father of the Taiwanese film industry,” opened a series of three movie theaters known as the three “shengs.”

The original iteration of Taipei Movie Theater was constructed and operated by the Chou family, who made their wealth within the construction industry: why they decided to open a movie theater has been lost to the annals of history. Based upon information gleaned from the construction permit, it would have cost no more than NT$120,000 to build. The property rights to the building were inherited by later generations of the Chou family, and there are currently more than 10 people in possession of property or land rights: Some hold an interest in the property but hold no land rights; others possess land rights without a stake in the building. Additionally, some family members emigrated overseas or could not be contacted. The complexity of the ownership structure led to a situation in which the theater has been out of operation for nearly 30 years.

Wu says that despite sharing the same surname, Taipei Movie Theater, built by the Chou family, and LUX Cinema, also in Taipei’s Ximending area and constructed by Chou Chen Yu-shu, were most likely unrelated. Wu says that Chou Chen Yu-shu originally started out selling noodles, but after making his fortune in real estate, opened a series of movie theaters, including the three “shengs” — LUX Cinema, Hsinsheng Theater and Kuosheng Theater. According to Wu, the advent of the video cassette, cable television and, in more recent times, smart phones, have all had an impact, and today the number of moviegoers coming to Ximending pales in comparison with years past.


1. ticket scalper phr. n.


(mai4 huang2 niu2 piao4 de5 ren2)

2. emigrate overseas phr.

移居海外 (yi2 ju1 hai3 wai4)

3. leading adj.

龍頭 (long2 tou2)

4. fall into decline phr.

沒落 (mo4 luo4)

5. root out phr.

掃蕩 (sao3 dang4)

6. fall into disuse phr.

荒廢 (huang1 fei4)

Taipei Movie Theater had a good run: in addition to being the first movie theater to open on what is now known as Ximending’s “Cinema Street,” it also boasted the largest movie theater auditorium and could seat 1,700 moviegoers. Later, when showing the Western movie The Winners (aka My Way), it established a new box office record for Taiwan, breaking the NT$10 million mark. At the time, the majority of tickets were priced around NT$10-NT$30, compared to today’s ticket prices of NT300-NT$400 per movie.

At the end of the 1970s, Taipei Movie Theater screened the Taiwanese-made 3D martial arts film 1,000 Miles to Recover a Knife and gradually became known as the leading theater for screening Taiwanese movies. As the movie industry fell into decline, the theater was unable to avoid the knock-on effect and one year after screening Tsui Hark’s martial arts film The Swordsman, Taipei Movie Theater closed its doors in 1991. The theater was subsequently converted into a Japanese pachinko slot machine and arcade game parlor, but after Taipei City Government initiated a campaign to root out gambling arcades, the building fell into disuse.

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