Motion Pictures in Singapore (1914) 🇺🇸

October 24, 2021

The popularity of the cinematograph in the East, says the American Consul at Singapore, in a recent issue of the "Daily Trade and Consular Reports," is yet another instance of the adoption of western ideas by a people whose supposed indifference to the march of civilization has become a theme for poets. This latest form of relaxation has become firmly established in the favor of Singaporeans, and those in a position to know predict a great future for it in the colony.

Singapore was by no means behind the rest of the world in its adoption of the bioscope. Many years have elapsed since the cinematograph was first introduced to local residents in a small show on High street, and the surprise of the native population when they witnessed pictures moving and performing acts which seemed more in place in actual life can much more easily be imagined than described.

There are now five picture houses in this city, and in a short time more will be added to the number. Some of the buildings used for motion picture purposes are ordinary frame structures with thatched roofs.

An interesting feature of local cinematograph theatres is the way they cater to the poorer native classes, by arranging benches made of planks at the rear of the stage or screen. Admission to this part of the house is 10 cents local currency or about 5.7 cents United States gold, and it is not unusual to have nearly a thousand people witnessing the pictures from the other side.

They are compelled, of course, to view the picture backward, but it seems to make little difference, as they do not read the English description and receive their sole amusement from the attractiveness of the picture itself. This feature is depended on by the theatres for a goodly portion of their revenue. Admission to the front part of the building seems exorbitant compared with similar shows in the United States, the general price being $2 local currency, or $1.14 American.

A luxuriously appointed building has been opened in Orchard Road. It is quite modern in construction, with balcony and boxes, but the custom here is rather the reverse of that in America, in that the ground floor is for the natives, while the first balcony with tiers of boxes on each side of the house and also a row of boxes at the rear of the balcony provide the first-class accommodations. The scale of prices for this new theatre is $1.14 (United States) in the boxes, $0.85 in the balcony, $0.28 for the ground floor, and $0.14 for the space behind the screen.

As stated, in addition to the five more or less modern picture houses here at present, the construction of another one, larger and more elaborate in design than those now in use, will soon be begun. This will be the new Alhambra, which will be erected by Mr. Tan Cheng Kee, who is also the owner of other picture houses.

Through the instrumentality of this consulate an order has been placed with an American firm for the chairs with which to equip this new theatre. This is the first instance where the United States has been favored for such furniture, the order being for 800 or more chairs, some of which are of an expensive type.

Source: The Motion Picture News, September 1914