Sunday, July 02, 2006

Let's take a minute or two to remember the grand old dame of Singapore cinemas – the Capitol.

(The Capitol on Cinema Treasures)

There’s a feature on the Capitol cinema in today's Sunday Times (No links because The Straits Times has in place an anachronistic policy of locking every article behind a subscription. Perfect way to make yourself irrelevant online.) For those of you outside Singapore, or just too young to remember, the Capitol was a major cinema with much nostalgic value in the memories of many (slightly older) Singaporeans. It's still a key landmark here, right in the city centre.

(Photos, circa 2001)

Unfortunately, nostalgia alone doesn't count for much here. The article talks about the derelict state the Capitol has fallen into since its closure in 1998, after the invasion of multiplexes. Everything's rotting away or falling into disrepair due to neglect. This is painful to think about when you recall its history as a premier cinema here, with lavish (for its time) interiors. I was particularly impressed by the large representation of the zodiac on the auditorium ceiling, less so by the stylised wall-mounted sculptures of horses and riders on either side of the screen – all relics from an era when going to the movies was an experience.

No-one seems to want to take over the Capitol. Old buildings are very expensive to maintain, and when you add that to the exorbitant restoration and refurbishment costs, it becomes hard to justify why anyone would want to take over the building.

Should the Government do it? It’s easy to point at the authorities, but that doesn’t answer the real question: "What will we do with the Capitol?" It may not be completely right for the authorities to do nothing, but what are the alternatives?

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