Ipohworld's World

Saving Yesterday For Tomorrow

This cinema was built in the 1930s, adjacent to a Christian graveyard – rumour has it that if you took off your shoes inside, you might not find them again when the lights come on! The picture shown here was taken in 1971, after the cinema was renovated.

I’m sure most of you know this Brewster Road cinema! Wonder what’s become of it now? After the fire in 2007, it seems to have just ‘stood still’……..

  1. ipohgal says:

    This is the Odeon Cinema.Been to this cinema a few times as a kid but never encounter any ghost!However a neighbour told us that one night after a night show,he went to the gents and as he was peeing,he looked out from the toilet’s window and saw the sight of a busy town with people rushing here and there and buildings were everywhere(instead of the graveyard).Maybe his eyes are playing tricks or he is trying to scare us kids but could’nt check with him as he is long gone.

  2. Ken Chan says:

    Odeon is definitely not one of Shaw’s buildings. The property itself belongs to the Foo family and it was leased to Cathay Organization. Cathay, Ruby and Odeon form the Cathay Organization chain of movie theaters, while Shaw Organization’s chain includes Lido, Rex, Capitol, Grand, Oriental and Sun Cinemas. Those were the days when stand alone movie palaces were packed with movie-goers and multiplexes have yet to make their presence felt.

  3. ika says:

    Hi Ken. thank you so much for the correction we will make sure our database includes the correct information. Also we had no idea that it was actually owned by the Foo family. It is details like this that we always need and we welcome any corrections as well. Our aim is to provide a unique and accurate heritage and social history site that will stand up to scrutiny by the experts.

    Do keep checking on us. We value your input.

  4. ipohgal says:

    Hi Felicia,yes,there are stalls selling dry stuff like sweets,chewing gum,salted nuts,sour plums and kuaci.You can also find boiled corns,steamed yellow peanuts,lin toong and lok lok.

    Talking about cinemas,do you know that in the late 60s and early 70s,some cinemas actually gave away free tickets to coffee shop proprietors like my dad for a space infront of the shop to put their billboards.Everytime they change a movie,we will get new tickets to that movie!So,we got to go for free movies throughtout the whole year.

  5. felicia says:

    Free movie tickets???? WOW! Ipohgal, you must have had the time of your life. Doubt they still do that now. These days tickets can cost quite a bit (especially on opening day)……so, getting a free ticket(now) would be great!

    Ken, thanks for the correction.

  6. Jim Joyce says:

    It is sad to see those Old Style Cinemas go because when they went they took with them the Hawkers that sold various snacks,such as ipohgal has mentioned,the boiled peanuts in newspaper cones,the rojak sellers,not my favourite I must admit,but my wife loved it.My favourite was the wafer thin strips of sweet pork,sold in beautiful fresh buns about 3-4 inches long.The Multi-plex system has replaced all this with the Popcorn and Coca Cola culture,alas thats progress. I think?

  7. felicia says:

    hahahah….you’re right Jim! you don’t get those snacks anymore
    😉 although, i must confess to having sneaked in some while at those cineplexes…..

  8. Sean Power says:

    Ah the Odeon. It was indeed across from the grave yard. Late 50’s and eraly 60’s further to the left of the building they would have outdoor chinese opera which use to scare the living s*** out of me as a child. The odeon always played mostly chinese movies but once in a while it would play some obscure weird english movie.I remeber seeing one about circus freaks there…strange.it always had the best bill boards.By the way this was not owned by the Shaw Bros…i belive it was Y.C.Foo. Awesome architecture! The catholic church was just behind it down the road. How the mind goes back. Love it!!

  9. sean power says:

    Hi felicia….I really dont know how long the opera continued for. I believe they were all part of a travelling troup….always changing.lots of symbols and clanging. None of it made any sense to me but it did not have to it was, at my age, scary as hell but irresistable. On the left and behing the theatre were these amazing tress….huge jungle oaks i beleive…you can see them in the photo…are they still there?

  10. AARON ONG says:

    🙂 Symbols and clanging, Sean????? Yeah, those opera people would make Dan Brown crazy just deciphering the symbols dangling from their flowing robes.

    But then again , if you had meant “cymbals and clanging”… aaaaa… then it makes sense…

    No offense bro. 🙂

  11. Gay (Hannah) Cluer says:

    I remember how exciting it was to go to the cinema in Ipoh. In the 50s they had air conditioning which not many places did then. Also they always showed two films.

    I think the Sun cinema was Run Run Shaw’s first one. The girl who sold tickets there gave my brother Tim a monkey which we kept at our garden in Tambun Road but it was very bad tempered and tried to bite everyone – perhaps that’s why she gave it to us!

    Also sometimes it was hard to hear the english dialogue as people were sucking on sugar cane!

  12. sean power says:

    Why thank you for this Aaron…I stand corrected….how neglectful of me and further, insightful of you. I am sure there are many more grammatical errors to come so we can all sleep better knowing that you will be on watch. No offense taken and I ‘aint your bro.

  13. sean power says:

    Hi Felicia… No oaks…how sad…is the cinema still there? Is it all built up around there now. It use to be one of the prettiest corners…also the catholic church is there as well is it not…and the convent? Wow it’s been almost 40 years for me. Getting a bit vague! I was back briefly in 96 but never passed by there. What’s the Ipoh Swimming Club like now.

  14. felicia says:

    Hi Sean. The building is still there, but it’s not a cinema anymore (sadly). Such theaters have lost out to the cineplexes (like GSC and TGV). The church is still there, so is the convent. The Ipoh Swimming Club is still around as well.

  15. Jim Joyce says:

    Can anyone please elaborate On how Run Run and Run Me Shaw,came by such unusal names?it has always intrigued me.Ken would know,surely?Pardon my digressing from the thread.

  16. ipohgal says:

    Hi Jim,when you mentioned about Run Run Shaw and Run Me Shaw,I suddenly remember what my Dad once told me about them.

    Around 1930 when my Dad was a boy of 10,these two young brothers toured Malaya on a bicycle with a wooden box at the back.They came all the way from Shanghai.And they would go to every nook and corner of SEA.

    For 1 cent,you can peep into a small hole in the middle of the box and one of the brothers would wind the handle at the side of the box. You can see black and white pictures!

  17. AARON ONG says:

    Hah!! What a revelation!! Now this is something that you don’t read in our history textbooks!

    I didn’t know that the Shaw Bros started their business on a bicycle with a wooden box strapped on the back. People must be wondering what’s in the box? How can pictures come out of a box??That musta be some magic!

    I wonder in those days of lore, had cinemas existed then?

    What/where is the 1st proper cinema in Malaya then?

    Once again, kudos to ipohgal for a insight into the humble beginning of cinema in Malaya.

  18. ipohgal says:

    Hi Aaron,it is my pleasure.

    My dad told me he patronised the Shaw bros magic box on the bicycle twice in Batu Gajah.It was at a Chinese opera and a circus in the Kuan Ti Temple ground.Both times one of the brothers were there personally to wind the pictures for the kids.They were in their early 20s,tall and thin then.That was in the 1920s and 1930s.My dad was about 9 or 10.

    He and his friends played a trick on the guard at the circus but could not pulled the same on the enterprising brothers!(please refer to my second blog- when the circus comes beckoning…dated 30th April)

  19. Ken Chan says:

    Hi Jim,
    The names of Sir Run Run Shaw and his brother, the late Tan Sri Run Me Shaw may sound unusual but in reality they were both typical Chinese names. The romanize version was spelt that way probably because it was pronounced in the tongue-twisting Shanghainese dialect since the siblings were from a Shanghainese family. Shaw was the surname or family name, and Run Run and Run Me were their given names. When pronounced in Cantonese, Shaw Run Me would be Siew Yan Meoy, which was phonetically very Chinese indeed.

    The two enigmatic brothers were pioneers in the movie entertainment business and their modus operandi was to bring the magic of motion pictures to cities as well as the remote villages through mobile cinemas. If the response from a particular area is consistently favorable, then they would acquire the land to build a brick and mortar movie house. Not only that, they also believed in buying up the extra land around the movie theater and the rationale behind this move was that when the cinema makes money, the value of the land around it would also appreciate. The brothers were known for their astute business acumen and they also had a keen eye for tapping the latent talents of relatively unknown actors and actresses or discovering diamonds in the rough, so to speak. However, Run Run Shaw was quite off the target when he turned away a budding Chinese American actor who subsequently became the world’s 1st mega kungfu star. Of course, that actor was Bruce Lee and the rest was cinema history.

    Run Me Shaw was in a coma for more than two years after an accidental fall and he passed away in 1985 at the age of 84. Meanwhile, Run Run Shaw is still going strong at 103 years young and ever since Shaw Studios had ceased movie production in the mid 80’s, he has focussed his attention on TVB (Television Broadcasting), which has flourish to become one of the five largest television production companies in the world. In addition to living a full and fruitful life, the brothers were also well-known philanthropists who donated millions to charitable causes.

  20. Jim Joyce says:

    Cheers Ken and ipohgal.Another well worth read and knowledge learned.Into the filing cabinet with the other interesting facts

  21. Jim Joyce says:

    Tell you what felicia,we could start a T.V. Quiz show.You as Host,I asking the questions and Ken answering.

  22. sean power says:

    Hi Gay,

    How amazing!! Are you the the very same Gay Hannah from all those years ago. Goodness I heard you married a straping young pilot and moved to Phuket Thailand. It is indeed incredible that you can still remember things from that many years ago.

  23. yvette says:

    Can anyone remember, some distance from the cinema there used to be an open-air restaurant selling dimsum at night. It sits in a corner street.
    After the movies, dad used to bring us to this place for supper. Infact those days, its a popular eating spot as its always crowded, more so when
    there are midnight shows at the Odeon.

  24. Ken Chan says:

    That was Kwong Chow Restaurant, located inside an old mansion within a sprawling compound. Dim sum was served in the open-air area near the building. On the nights when the weather was not very conducive to alfresco dining, there was also seating availabe inside the building. The space further away from the dining area was used as a parking lot. This was a popular spot for enjoying dim sum under the starry night sky, amidst a cool evening breeze. Heading in the direction of Odeon, one would reach the restaurant after passing the Jubilee Cabaret and the cinema is further down Brewster Road. The restaurant came to an untimely demise when it was gutted by fire in the late 70’s and it never saw the light of the day again.

  25. yvette says:

    Thanks Ken, for your info. The place is now turned into a Beer Garden, no longer suitable for quiet dining.If one is not drown by the beer, noises of drinkers will!

  26. Errol says:

    Yvette: I think that place is now occupied by a car wash; Beer Garden is located more to the back portion of that piece of land.

  27. ika says:

    I am afraid we cannot claim Loke Wan Tho as one of our own. He was born in Kuala Lumpur on 14th June, 1915, the ninth of eleven children of Towkay Loke Yew.

  28. Ruth Iversen Rollitt says:

    The Odeon cinema was built by my father B M Iversen in 1938 and was originally called the Rex (I know this from my mother’s albums.

  29. UV@Valiant Knight says:

    Reading the latest entry No.40, no wonder you all left the caption of Odean as a Shaw’s building. Shaw built it but was taken over by the Cathay Organisation of Loke Wan Tho.

    I really marvel at the terrific knowledge of Ken! Hats off to you sir!

  30. HomesickforIpoh says:

    Did Odeon start out as a theatre?

    Thanks Ruth for letting us know it was originally called “Rex”
    until Cathay Organisation took over.

    But in Chinese, what is it really called?
    My parents who died recently had mentioned that in the late 30’s
    and early 40’s, the Cantonese name was “Koh Ting”, which means
    “tall tower”.

    I like to see a picture from that time frame if you have it to
    see the actual Chinese characters.

    My mother also said that “Koh Ting” which later became Odeon
    started out as some kind of opera house and for stage shows.
    As a 14 year old teenage girl during World War 2, she was
    recruited to be a singer at “Koh Ting” to entertain Japanese
    soldiers who frequent there during the war.

    But being a humble person who likes a low profile lifestyle,
    she declined the job as she is uncomfortable at the odds of
    being hit on by Japanese soldiers.

    Also, Rex cinema by Hume Street used to be called in
    Cantonese as “Yat Lork”.
    Please pardon my phoetic translation of these Chinese names
    into English spellings but I am sure you know what I mean.
    And on this website, I learned that the English name for the
    Rex theatre was the “Isis theatre”.

    Please kindly give us more details as I am curious.

  31. HomesickforIpoh says:

    Thanks Ika for the link to the Isis theatre.
    Yes, right above the English name of “Isis”, you will see some
    vertical bars type design. Right above those vertical bars
    are 5 small Chinese characters.

    On the first character on the right, you see a “-“.

    The “-” is a Chinese character that means “one”.
    In Mandarin, it is pronounced as “yit”, in Cantonese, it is “yat”.

    The Cantonese pronunciation of the Chinese name of
    “Yat Lork” means “one step”.

    So my parents were correct when they said that Rex used to
    be called “Yat Lork” in Cantonese.

    I am happy to learn from this website that the English name
    was “Isis theatre”.

    What a dramatic change. The Isis with all the columns is a bit
    colonial looking and has more character.

    Also, at one point, my parents told me that Rex was a warehouse
    until Shaw Brothers took over.

    So I guess that building “Isis theatre” has a pattern of being a theatre, then warehouse, then theatre again (Rex) and now
    furniture warehouse.
    So, history does repeat itself.

    As for Odeon, I was told that it started out as a theatre
    for stage shows and then cinema when Cathay Organisation took
    over. Then after the closure, it reverted to a night club
    with bands performing again which in a way implies stage

  32. HomesickforIpoh says:

    Hi Oldtimer,

    Rex cinema before it was taken over by Shaw was called
    the Isis theatre.

    If you look at the picture Ika provided in the link


    directly above the name “Isis”, you will see some vertical bars
    type design. Above those vertical bars are 5 small Chinese characters.

    The very first character on the right is a “-”.

    This character “-” is “yit” in Mandarin and “yat” in Cantonese.

    Well, I didn’t know the old name for Rex in English was “Isis”
    until I came across this site.
    But for the Chinese name of “Yat Lork” before WW2,
    it was my parents who told me about it.

  33. Old timer says:

    Hi HomesickforIpoh,
    When the cinema was known as Isis, it could have been known as ‘Yat Lork’. But after it was taken over by Shaw Bros and after the Japanese ocupation, the Chinese name could have been changed by the local as ‘Lai See’. You could be right. I have no knowledge of the prewar name for Rex. Thank you for enlightening me.

  34. felicia says:

    We’ve made a correction to the title – we have been told that the Odeon was first called “Koh Ting” or “tall tower” (in English). it was privately owned; starting off as a nightclub, with a ‘live’ theatre. Later Cathay Organisation took over and turned it into a cinema. it closed in 1986, but the premises were leased out to several operators, one after another (who ran it as a night club).

    We thank Valerie Kam for the above information.

    ika adds “It seems it was never successful as a night club after 1986.”

  35. S.Y. Lee says:

    Felicia, As for as I know Odeon was the name used by the English speaking and “Koh Ting” was the name used by the Chinese speaking people. It was not known first as as “Koh Ting” and later as Odeon. Lai See is Rex theatre. The Chinese way of calling Rex is Lai See. Rex is along Hume Street and not where Odeon is. I have never heard of Rex being called Yat Lok or Isis. Odeon was never called Rex.

  36. ika says:

    What an interesting set of comments we now have. One thing is sure, the building called Rex today was originally the Isis (pre war). Regarding the Odeon, if Ruth’s mother’s albums show a picture of the building pre war as the Rex then surely it must be correct. Perhaps Ruth could send us a photo to prove it. I shall ask her be email.

    What the Chinese call the buildings I have no idea but Valerie is very accurate regarding cinema history and I shall be interested to see how she responds.

  37. Homesickforipoh says:

    We know that the old name for Rex by Hume Street was Isis
    according to the picture by Ika. In Chinese, Rex is called
    “lai see” or rather the more accurate Cantonese pronunciation
    is “leii see”.

    As for the old name of Isis theatre, if one can read Chinese,
    one will see the Chinese characters as described on post 47.
    The character “-” is “yit” in Mandarin and “yat” in Cantonese.
    That should prove that the old Chinese name for Rex is
    “Yat Lork”.

    As for Odeon, the Chinese name according to the characters
    is pronounced in Cantonese as “oh digg onn”.

    As for the old name called “Rex”, Ruth is probably right
    if she has the picture showing it.

    As for the Chinese name, we need the picture from Ruth
    to see what the characters are.

    Although Odeon was built decades before I was born, my parents
    have mentioned that the old name in Chinese is “Koh Ting”.

    You see, sometimes a name can be translated on way here but
    another way elsewhere.

    Example: Capitol in Ipoh is called “kink dol” in Cantonese
    but in Kuala Lumpur, Capitol is translated as “keng wah”
    if you look at the Chinese characters in the picture here.


    So instead of debating endlessly, I am just as curious and
    hope that Ruth would send us the picture of Odeon actully
    being called “Rex” so that we can all see the Chinese characters
    on it.

    I hope this explanation makes sense.

  38. Ruth Iversen Rollitt says:

    I only know that the Odeon was formerly known as the Rex from my mother’s albums of B M Iversen buildings – do not have any other proof. Sorry.

    • sk says:

      Hi Ruth Iversen Rollitt.
      Not to worry about your proof. Your mom’s album was right. Odeon was known as Rex. This can be found in Ipohworld database contributed by Darren Teh page 12/16
      entitled : – A House is Built – William Jacks & Co, (Malaya) Ltd.
      It showed REX with “SB” logo . However it did not have any Chinese character. The building looked very new & no movie billboard advertisement .
      I also just knew Rex was known as Isis here.
      The name Koh Ting & Oh Digg Onn brought me pleasant reminisce as I remembered asking the taxi driver what Odeon was called in Cantonese.

  39. Homesickforipoh says:

    Hi Ruth,
    Thanks for the update. Do you by chance still have a picture
    of Odeon when it was called “Rex” just out of curiousity
    because I am curious what the Chinese characters say.

    I am sure you are correct it was called “Rex” since you know
    better and also it was also decades before I was born.

    Even the Chinese name of “Koh Ting” was told to me my by
    parents that it was the pre-war Chinese name as based on the
    Chinese characters at the time.

    Unfortunately they not here anymore and so I have no proof too.

    I am glad another poster “S. Y. Lee” also came forward to
    say that in Chinese, Odeon was referred to as “Koh Ting”.

    I am suspecting that when Odeon was called “Rex” that the
    Chinese characters were “Koh Ting”.

    That’s why I am curious to see the photo if you still have it
    to share.

    But as Odeon, the Chinese characters “Oh digg onn” definitely
    sounded similar to the phonetic sound of Odeon.

    Thanks Oldtimer for your feedback too.
    Yes, sometimes Chinese characters differ for the English name
    like in the case of Capitol Ipoh which was called “Keng Dol”
    but in KL, Capitol in Chinese was called “Keng Wah” according
    to the picture in this link

    As for Rex by Hume Street, the Chinese characters definietly
    say “Lei See”.

    But when Rex was called “Isis theatre”, it was definitely
    called “Yat Lork” if you look at the Chinese characters.

    Actually it looks like the pre-war Isis theatre either has a
    complete makeover or could even be demolished and rebuilt
    and renamed “Rex” because the 2 buildings look so different.

    Thanks for everyone’s feedback.

  40. Helen says:

    Anyone remember there was a coffee house located on the ground floor back in its ‘Odeon’ days?

    I remember distinctly I used to go there for ice cream…

  41. hasbi says:

    Isis Theatre was built in 1916 by Mr. John Archibald (Archie) Russel at the corner of Hume Street and Anderson Road and was rebuilt by the Shaw Brothers in 1932.

    and opened on August 1933 .

    and the Isis Theatre name still used until 1947 ? when Shaw Bros. failed in their claims to the Odeon Theatre leasing right ?

    Ruth Iversen Rollit might be right . .

  42. hasbi says:

    With references to my “Ipoh’s Tall Tower” post no. 57 :

    The Straits Times, 30th April 1939, page 10 : ” Ipoh To Have Four New Cinemas . . A cinema hall which will be leased to Shaw Brothers, is being constructed in Brewster Road for Mr. Foo Yin Fong. ”

    The Straits Times, 20th November 1947, page 7 : ” Cinema premises – The Leases And Tenancies (Dispossessed Persons) Board today reserved its decision in the application by Mr. Runme Shaw under the Leases and Tenancies for the repossession of the Odeon Theatre premises of which he was leased pre-war, when it was known as the Rex Theatre.
    The hearing of the application which started on Monday mornong closed at noon today. ”

    Hopefully with the above research findings will enlighten Ipohworld’s with the matters concern.

  43. HomesickforIpoh says:

    Hi Hasbi,

    Thanks for the information in regards Odeon and Rex.

    Yes, we know from Ika that Rex on Hume Street was once called
    “Isis” and in Chinese (Cantonese) according to the Chinese
    characters was “Yat Lok”. Then as Rex, in Chinese, it is
    “Leii See” or “Lai See” however you translate the phonetic sound.

    Thanks to Ruth and yourself for confirming that Odeon was once
    called Rex.

    Since you are so resourceful, I wonder if you can help research
    and dig from whatever means you could for a picture of Odeon
    when it was called Rex. I am very curious to see what the
    Chinese name was.

    In the 60’s and 70’s, the Chinese name for Odeon is “Oh Digg Onn”
    but at one time, it was called “Koh Ting”, which means
    “Tall Tower”.

    I wonder what period it was when it was called “Koh Ting”.

    I am also curious about when Shaw Brothers leased Odeon and when
    Cathay Organisation took over.

    Was it ever subleased to someone else briefly during World War 2
    or did Shaw Brothers took a break from the lease and let the
    building owner run it for something else such as stage shows?

    I am curious because as mentioned in post #43:

    “My mother also said that “Koh Ting” which later became Odeon
    started out as some kind of opera house and for stage shows.
    As a 14 year old teenage girl during World War 2, she was
    recruited to be a singer at “Koh Ting” to entertain Japanese
    soldiers who frequent there during the war.

    But being a humble person who likes a low profile lifestyle,
    she declined the job as she is uncomfortable at the odds of
    being hit on by Japanese soldiers.”

    Well, since my parents are gone, I have no one else to ask
    when and how Odeon had all those stage shows for Japanese

    Hopefully you can find some information on this.

    Thanks for your research and contribution.

  44. hasbi says:

    New imformation . .

    From Shawonline:www.shaw.sg: About Shaw > Shaw Cinemas, Pre War :

    ” In the state of Perak, Ipoh had the Lido, Eu Tong Sen Hall, Rex, Isis, Capitol, Grand and Broadway Theatres in Jubilee Park; Taiping had the Lido, Tupat Halls and Sun Theatres; Telok Anson had the Empire, Diamond, Royal . . . etc ”

    During the pre-war period, Shaw Bros. had both the REX and ISIS theatres in Ipoh : http://www.shaw.sg/sw_abouthistory.aspx?id=162%2011%207%20214%20252%20213%20233%20173%20104%2032%20107%2073%20163%20223%20107%2057

    I managed to sourced thru a webpage with a much older photo of Odeon Ipoh. Hopefully HomesickforIpoh can give us the detailing later. Sorry . no older Rex photos found.

  45. HomesickforIpoh says:

    Hi Hasbi,

    Thanks for those links. The picture of Odeon in your link
    is probably from before 1971. After the renovation and reopenning
    in January 1971, the front only has one big billboard size poster
    instead of two.

    I cannot see the Chinese characters in the picture but my
    intuition tells me it was the “Oh digg onn” characters as I
    vaguely spotted 3 characters. I amd still curious to see one
    with the “Rex” name or the Chinese characters of “Koh Ting” (translation – “tall tower”).

    Hopefully someone out there could get us a piture from the 1940’s
    or 1930’s.

    Thanks for your contribution.

  46. HomesickforIpoh says:

    Hi Hasbi,

    Thanks for the link of Rex on Anderson Road. We know for sure
    the Chinese characters for Rex on Anderson Road is “Lei See”
    and when it was Isis theatre, it was “Yat Lork”.

    Since we have been informed that Odeon was once called Rex,
    I would love to see a picture of Odeon when it was called Rex
    so that I can see the Chinese characters.

    Thanks for your resourcefulness.

  47. ika says:

    Ruth Rollitt has just drawn our attention The Straits Times, 20 November 1947, Page 7 which reads

    C”inema Premises
    Ipoh, Wednesday.

    The Leases and Tenancies (Dispossessed Persons) Board today reserved its decision in the application by Mr Runme Shaw under the Leases and Tenancies Ordinance for the repossession of the Odeon Theatre premises of which he was lease pre-war, when it was known as the Rex Theatre.
    The hearing of the application which started on Monday morning closed at noon today.”

    You can see the article at http://newspapers.nl.sg/Digitised/Article/straitstimes19471120.2.54.7.aspx but no picture I am afraid.

  48. Goodwin says:

    hello to all you good people out there! i remember odeon when i lived in ipoh. my father took me to a movie at odeon. the movie was hatari. this was back in 1962 or 1963. i was four or five years old then.

  49. Ipoh Remembered says:

    There are numerous comments above regarding the history of this theatre. I appreciate all of them but some details are inaccurate.

    Taking (I assume) all the comments above into account, the editors at ipohWorld put together a summary (item 1020 in the database). I respond here to that summary:

    Designed by Berthel Michael Iversen for Towkay Foo Yinn Fong, the theatre, known in Cantonese as “Koh Ting”, which means “tall tower”., was built in the 1930’s and originally named the Rex Theatre. Initially it showed Chinese opera and stage shows but was turned into a Shaw Brothers’ Cinema in 1939

    Not quite.

    The theatre was first conceived in 1938, just as Lau Ek Ching’s cinema hall on Anderson Road was nearing completion. Yes, the owner was Foo Yin Fong.[*] Yes, Berthel Iversen was the architect. From the start it was agreed that the building (1) was to be leased by the Shaws for ten years; (2) was to house Ipoh’s first air-conditioned cinema, which was to be called the Lido; and (3) was to be ready by May, 1939.

    Well, the building was not ready by May, 1939. It was not completed until 1940, and by that time the Shaws had decided to call their new theatre the Rex. (As you know, they did use the name “Lido” in Ipoh, but later.)

    The Shaws screened movies at the Rex for about a year, and then … exeunt the Shaws, enter the Japanese.

    As mentioned recently, the Japanese authorities took over the theatre, called it the Ipoh Bunka Eiga Gekijo, and used it for the screening of documentaries and propaganda.

    Database item 1020 continues:

    After the war, the theatre was renovated, leased to the Cathay organisation and renamed the Odeon Theatre.

    More or less true — but at the time, Loke Wan Tho’s Cathay Organisation was still called Associated Theatres.

    In the early ’50s, Wan Tho installed Malaya’s first female cinema-house manager at the Odeon. (She was Chung Thye Phin’s niece and a fanatical movie-watcher. Her name escapes me just at the moment.)

    Also in the early ’50s: Suites (or rooms) on the third floor of the building were rented out. Among the tenants were the YWCA and the Menteri Besar’s Paloh Club. Both organisations soon moved into their own premises elsewhere in town.


    *: Foo Yin Fong was the eldest son of Foo Nyit Tse. In his youth, he’d had some minor scrapes with the law. By 1934, he was patriarch of his family and a respected miner. But a few years later, when there was a major investigation into corruption in the F. M. S. Mines Department, Yin Fong was found to be one of the miners involved. Among other things, he had paid numerous officials to favour him improperly in their rulings; and to give him proprietary information entrusted to them by others. Luckily for him, the war came; and afterwards, all was forgotten. Soon enough, he was serving on the Perak State Council — and then it was his young sons’ turn to enter into some minor scrapes with the law (but that’s another story).

    • Ipoh Remembered says:

      My pleasure.

      About this:

      After the war, the theatre was renovated

      Yes, and among the renovations was the installation of Fox’s newly invented “CinemaScope” with stereo sound included.

      And about this:

      In the early ’50s, Wan Tho installed Malaya’s first female cinema-house manager at the Odeon. (She was Chung Thye Phin’s niece and a fanatical movie-watcher. Her name escapes me just at the moment.)

      Still can’t recall her name, exactly, but I did recall that she was promoted to be manager in ’53. (She had started as a mere ticket-seller in ’45; and could not have been more than 20 years old at the time.) And one correction: Chung Thye Phin was not her uncle; he was her father’s uncle.

      • ika says:

        Ipoh Remembered, Wiki tells us thath:

        “CinemaScope is an anamorphic lens series used, from 1953 to 1967, for shooting widescreen movies. Its creation in 1953 by Spyros P. Skouras, the president of 20th Century Fox, marked the beginning of the modern anamorphic format in both principal photography and movie projection.”

        I would guess therefore that Cinemascope must have been installed in the Odeon im a second renovation, well after the 1947 court case.

        • Ipoh Remembered says:

          Yes, that’s right; it was installed at the Odeon in 1953.

          Which means that, yes, it was brand-new world-wide when it was installed in Ipoh.

          Which reminds me of another discussion I’ve seen a few times here on ipohWorld, the question being: How long typically was it after British or American movies were screened in the West before they became available in Ipoh? My answer: the lag was sometimes short, sometimes zero, and sometimes even negative!

          For example, in 1963, the movie The VIPs, sometimes called Hotel International, starring Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, premiered around the world during the first two weeks of September: it was first screened in Teheran and Karachi on September 1; then in Buenos Aires, Ipoh, Singapore, KL, and Penang on September 5; and only after that in the United States.

          Granted, the movie distribution companies have their own peculiar reasons for when, where, and why they make each movie available — that is to say, their priorities can be mysterious, but my point here is simply that Ipoh was not always low on the list.

          PS: It’s good to see you back, ika.

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