The Best of Singapore’s Alternative Movie Theaters
It's been more than 40 years since the first drive-in movie theater was opened in Singapore. Located at Yuan Ching Road, close to the Japanese Gardens, the 5.6 ha plot could play host to 900 cars, plus 300 walk-in guests, who watched the movie from a viewing gallery. After the initial novelty wore off, patrons became tired of the long lines to enter the site and the tropical weather, which caused many a screening to be viewed through thrashing windshield wipers. It’s little wonder audiences dwindled to a point that made the theater’s future bleak. Sadly, Singapore’s only drive-in was closed in September 1985, due to falling attendance and huge competition from the growing pirate video market.
Movies are, of course, still big business in Singapore, with theater chains such as Golden Village and Cathay providing all the big box office hits. Although comfortable, and in some cases out-and-out luxurious, large chain movie theaters can lack a certain charm that you only find in an independent theater.
If you hanker for a more alternative kind of movie experience, read on for a few ideas…
From the glamorous…
Although it’s a bit of a gamble buying tickets for an outdoor event in the tropics, the promise of a warm, summer evening of relaxing with the family while taking in a movie under the stars is too much to turn down. Outdoor screenings pop up around Singapore pretty frequently, with events held at Fort Canning Park (Films at the Fort) and on the beach at Tanjong Beach Club, Sentosa (Sunset Cinema), to name two. Movie-goers are encouraged to arrive early to soak up the pre-film atmosphere, grab a drink and a bite to eat, then watch the sun go down before the viewing starts.
Through the quirky…
Facebook-based Movie Mob is revolutionizing Singapore cinema one screening at a time by putting on outdoor movie events, which are often free of charge. Whether they’re recreating the old days of the drive-in, or taking over the Skylight Atrium of a shopping mall, they are certainly putting the fun back into a family trip to the movies. ‘Like’ them on Facebook to get details of their next event in your feed.
To the downright bizarre!
You’ve heard of the traveling circus, now here’s the traveling movie theater. Check out Be My Kaki Bus, which travels around different locations in the heartlands, bringing family friendly movies to the masses – on the side of a bus! I challenge you to find a more unusual movie experience in Singapore.
There’s really nothing more hipster than seeing an art-house movie in an alternative theater and the Singapore experience will not let you down.
Indie favorite The Projector at Golden Mile has a rich history. When it was built in the early seventies, Golden Theatre was the biggest movie theater in Singapore and Malaysia, boasting more than 1,500 seats. Like its contemporaries, it was once one huge venue, with stalls and circle seats. Now, the two halls of The Projector can be found on the fifth floor, originally the Golden Theatre’s circle seats.
Another option for the lesser-screened picture is the Screening Room. Established in 2007, this uber-chic venue is housed in a heritage building on the beautiful Ann Siang Road. The Screening Room selects its movies to complement culinary and cultural events and allows customers to catch quirky classics, new independent and foreign films in a luxurious setting when they spend $15++ on food or drink. Even better, you can head up to the rooftop bar after the show to discuss the movie over a cocktail or two.
The similarly named Screening Room @ The Arts House is another go-to for independent movies. With just 75 seats it’s a pretty intimate venue, which played host to several premieres at the 2017 Singapore International Film Festival.
Whether blockbusters are your bag or you're all about art house – there’s something for everyone at Singapore's independent movie theaters.
Originally from a tiny seaside town in the UK, Frances Strong has called Singapore home since 2011. Six years later, she's still exploring the Little Red Dot and loves to find new and quirky places to wow her visitors. When she's not playing taxi driver for her children, she likes to write about travel, motherhood, food, life... and anything in between.
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