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CollectionsDown Memory Lane: Movie Theatres of the Olden DaysThe Development of Theatres in Hong KongScreenings

Since the 20s of last century, theatres had been showing 3 screenings per day: 2:30, 7:30 and 9:30pm. 12:30 and 5:30pm screenings were added during the 1950s. Before multiplexes became popular in the 1990s, this was the regular schedule for all the theatres.

“After-Work” Screenings

Life was generally hard in the 1950s and 1960s; Cantonese film theatres thus used the 5:30pm slot to screen second-run foreign films, and named it "After-Work" screening. Different daily programmes with discounted ticket prices offered the working class affordable entertainment.

Matinee Screenings

Second-run foreign film theatres such as Oriental, Capitol and Paramount also had discounted matinee screenings to show old films. In the 1960s, first-run foreign film theatres such as Empire, Royal, Queen’s and Princess added the daily 12:30pm matinee show and listed the monthly schedule on the first day of every month on newspaper.

Sunday Matinee Screenings

Every Sunday in the 1950s and 1960s, first-run foreign film theatres thoughtfully added 11am or 12 noon screening of cartoons from MGM and Paramount for family audience. Free sodas were sometimes provided. Some theatres also showed old Cantonese films in the matinee screenings.

Midnight Screenings

Chinese New Year Eve Midnight Screenings
Midnight screening was popular in Southeast Asia and first appeared in Hong Kong in the 1950s. On 11 February 1956, the Chinese New Year Eve, Liberty Theatre and Hoover Theatre put out an 11:45pm screening for the new film The Adventures of Quentin Durward, calling it “the first time in Hong Kong history, entertaining everyone on Chinese New Year Eve.” A trend was thus set and 25 theatres followed suit by 1966.

Holidays Midnight Screenings
Some theatres started to have screenings on Mid-Autumn Festival Eve and Christmas Eve as well, often opening between 11:30pm and 12:00am. These holidays midnight screenings usually showed old instead of first run films. The idea was to provide another form of late night entertainment to the public.

Daily Midnight Screenings
Since 15 March 1967, Capitol Theatre, the first among her peers, had midnight screening of old foreign film every night at 11:30pm, charging discounted prices at $1.5 for stalls and $2.4 for dress circle.

Weekly New Film Midnight Screenings
By the end of the 1960s, it was already a convention for new films to be shown at midnight screenings. On 28 January 1968, the eve of Chinese New Year, the Shaw Brothers theatres put the new film Hong Kong Rhapsody on for 7 consecutive midnights. Since then, the Shaw Brothers theatres would have midnight screenings on the weekends for new films and all the other theatres soon followed suit. In the 1970s and 1980s, midnight screening was a staple in local film theatres serving as sneak preview and barometer of a film’s popularity. If the reception was poor, the film even had to be re-edited overnight.

  • Matinee Show Ticket of South China Theatre

  • Matinee Show Ticket of Astor Theatre

  • Advertisement of the midnight show of Hong Kong Rhapsody (1968)
The Development of Theatres in Hong Kong

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