Header image courtesy of Cheung Chau Theatre Multicultural Park
Opened in 1931, Cheung Chau Cinema was once a popular gathering place for island residents and visitors until it shuttered in 1997. Now, after a decade-long restoration project, the historic Cheung Chau Cinema is reopening its doors to the public! From a humble theatre to a newly revitalised multicultural park, find out what you can expect at the new and improved Cheung Chau Cinema.
At its peak, Cheung Chau Cinema held three screenings a day, featuring both Cantonese and Western black-and-white silent films that would attract a full house. Much like other theatres operating in the same period, a narrator was present at each screening, and snacks and small bites were sold to cinema-goers around the entrance to the building.
The pre-war cinema was in operation for around sixty years before its closure in 1997, and the abandoned building had been left untouched for 20-odd years before the revitalisation project began. The two-storey outer shell of the building barely withstood the test of time, with the second-floor roof collapsing during a typhoon. But things were about to get better for the cinema when landowners decided to not only preserve the building, but also revitalise it into something new that residents and day-trippers could enjoy once again.
Now, the project has divided the cinema’s building and its surrounding lands into four major zones—Cheung Chau Cultural Centre, Dumbbell Information Centre, 1931 Studio, and CCC Open Piazza—each focusing on highlighting remarkable cultural traditions that the island holds, findings brought about by the restoration, and the cinematic history of Cheung Chau Cinema.
Themed “Archaeology in Cheung Chau,” the Cheung Chau Cultural Centre offers a selection of educational tours and workshops that explore the rich past and vibrant present of the island. Put on your hard hat for the excavation simulation tour! Visitors can learn about the history of Cheung Chau in a stimulating first-hand fire-drilling experience. Arts and crafts enthusiasts can also delve deeper into traditional crafts with activities such as tile printing.
The Cheung Chau Multicultural Park also showcases the historical ties the island has with one of the most notorious pirates on this side of the sea: Cheung Po Tsai. Drawing inspiration from a popular attraction on Cheung Chau, the Cheung Po Tsai Cave—a narrow enclosure where the Chinese pirate took refuge from authorities during the Qing dynasty—the ship-shaped Cheung Po Tsai Lookout showcases panoramas of the cinema and the island, doubling as a refreshment kiosk for visitors.
For history and culture junkies, the Dumbbell Information Centre is not to be missed. Complete with a showcase of century-old illustrations, documents, checklists, and artwork, visitors can dive into the heyday of Cheung Chau Cinema and the island in general. The Information Centre also houses a special exhibition by local artist Louis To Wun, titled “Bamboo Art: Flying Qilin.” While you are looking at historical artefacts on display, remember to look up and admire the intricately crafted bamboo creatures hanging from the ceiling.
Named after the original name of the Cheung Chau Cinema, 1931 Studio is an interactive showcase that presents the best of Hong Kong cinema. Visitors are invited to step before the camera and re-enact scenes from Cantonese classics such as Legend of the Chinese Casanova and Storm of Justice. Other activities available at the studio include a movie poster-making workshop and a behind-the-scenes tour where visitors can learn more about the local film industry at its peak.
To top it all off, enjoy a series of outdoor screenings and performances at the CCC Open Piazza! Nostalgic titles from local and international directors will be screened from time to time on the big screen, and up-and-coming Hong Kong filmmakers are also encouraged to submit their works to be shown at the open-air location. It would not be a proper cinema experience without snacks and drinks, so visitors can find three sailboat-like food stalls serving island snacks and cocktails.
Despite this being the first stage of the Cheung Chau Cinema revitalisation project, the multicultural park promises citizens of Hong Kong and its visitors a whole array of historical and cultural experiences that are unique to the island. If you are looking for a reason to visit—or revisit—Cheung Chau, this is it!
Cheung Chau Theatre Multicultural Park, 120 San Hing Bak Street, Cheung Chau