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SINGAPORE    High & Low Tides


    What's New - What's Gone

What's Gone - Thanks For The Memories!

     Places -      Cathay Building & Cinema

Circa 2000

Cathay Building & Cinema closed in December 1998. The 17th-storey building was the tallest building in South-east Asia when it was completed in October 1939.

Built by Frank Brewer, it was designed as a hotel. A subsequent glut of hotel space led to its transformation into an office building, both by filling in all the balconies, and making bay windows.(1)

The 32 luxury flats on offer came with hot and cold water, refrigerators and the use of a squash court. The apartments were completed in August 1941.(4)

Upon completion, it was also the tallest building on the island (over 83 m high) and the first public air-conditioned place in Singapore. It required two years of construction, and contained, in addition to the 1,300-seat cinema, a lounge and bar, the Cathay Restaurant and luxury apartments.(2)

It was opened at the outbreak of World War II, on 2 October 1939, with Zoltán Korda's war adventure, The Four Feathers (1939). During the Japanese Occupation, the Japanese Broadcasting Department, the Military Propaganda Department and Military Information Bureau were housed in the building but the cinema "continued its business under the name of Dai Toa Gekkyo. Regular screenings resumed in September 1945. Between 1945 & 1946, the building also served as the headquarters for Admiral Lord Mountbatten, South-East Asian Supreme Allied Commander.(2)

Immediately after the war, Cathay Cinema was the first movie theatre to re-open, although large parts of its air-conditioning plant were missing.  In 1948, LOKE Wan Tho demanded that the building be returned to civilian use and the colonial government vacated the various offices. In celebration, the Cathay Restaurant was opened on 2 May 1948. (3)

In 1954, the 60-room Cathay Hotel was opened in the building and it later expanded to 170 rooms. By 1970, costly plans to renovate the hotel were abandoned and the hotel reverted to office space. (3)

  Cathay building and cinema is now undergoing a S$100-million redevelopment which will see the construction of a new 15-storey complex, comprising offices, apartments, cinemas, and retail space. The historic building's brown-tiled facade will be preserved. The new complex will be ready by the end of 2005. (Straits Times 17 May 2003 H6)

More pictures .....


(1) Page 142, A History of Singapore Architecture - The Making of a City by Jane Beamish & Jane Ferguson. (ISBN 9971 947 97 8)

(2) Page 150, 152, Latent Images: Film In Singapore by Jan Uhde & Yvonne Uhde. Published by Ngee Ann Polytechnic 2000. ISBN 0 19 588714 X

(3) Page 131, Singapore Chronicles - A Special Commemorative History of Singapore. Published by Singapore Tatler in 1995 on the 30th anniversary of the Republic. ISBN 962 6270 93297.

(4) Page 181, Singapore - A Pictorial History 1819 - 2000 by Gretchen LIU. Published by Archipelago Press, an Imprint of Editions Didier Millet. ISBN 981 3018 81 X.