I’m not one for maudlin, sentimental declarations, but the following is absolutely true.
Cathay Cineplex Cineleisure is one of the reasons for this site.
Oh no no, the management didn’t sponsor me or something. If only. Instead, the following happened.
While I’ve always loved a good movie, I wasn’t particularly fond of the cinema experience when young. Throughout the 90s, I visited the cinema no more than 15 times.
That changed in 2002. Frustrated and burned out from managing my company, I started looking for places to flee to on Saturday evenings—that’s the only time when I wouldn’t be working. Pubs, gyms, parks, beaches, etc., aren’t really my thing, so I started heading to the cinema.
My typical programme: I’d head down to Orchard Road or the City Hall area at around 7 pm, have a cheap dinner, mosey around, then catch a 10 pm or 11 pm show. After which, I’ll use the Nightrider bus service to get home.
Before long, Cineleisure became my weekly haunt. Now, there are a few reasons for this but I’m not going to bore you. I’ll just say that among all the major town area cinemas back then, I felt most comfortable with Cathay Cineplex Cineleisure.
While some moviegoers loathe it, I find the circuitous route up to level 5 exciting—there was always that sense of heading to a special event. Before 2004, there was also a huge arcade on the fourth floor. If I had an hour to burn before a show, well, this arcade was where I would be. To share, I wasted a mini fortune on The House of the Dead 2 here. But got nowhere beyond stage 4 …
Needless to say, it was during this period that I decided I really, REALLY love watching AND ranting about movies.
It wasn’t just the shows that I watched at Cineleisure. Other than the arcade, I would also spend hours at HMV Heeren before heading into the cinema. Back then, the music giant had a sizable DVD section. I would spend hours just reading the synopses on the boxes again and again. My favourite was the Asian shelf where rows and rows of Shaw Brothers kung-fu classics were displayed.
I bought quite a few of those, by the way, I also still have all of them. When browsing/paying, I also told myself, hmm, someday, I’ll watch every movie sold here and publish all my rants. Ha ha ha!
And so when I started this site, movie reviews were the first articles I posted. I didn’t even consider any other category.
Cineleisure: The Cool Part of Town That Went Downhill
My Saturday night hangout stayed the same for well over ten years. Up till the end of 2017, Cinelesiure also remained one of the hippiest Orchard Road places to be on weekends. You can come out from the cinema at 2 am and the area before it, where Starbucks still is, would be full of noisy youngsters and lovey couples.
But things started going downhill after that. A slow decline full of subtle hints that probably escaped the notice of most visitors, but were so obvious to me because I’ve been regularly visiting for over 15 years.
Quiet shops, emptied shops, disinterested shopkeepers and vacant stalls at the basement food court. Escalators that stayed out of action for over six months. Lifts that were inexplicably always under maintenance.
At level 6 where the main auditoriums were, worn couches were not replaced. They were just removed. After Smoothie King closed its outlet beside the level 5 box office, the area was never taken up by another cafe. It was left empty for a long time before standees took over.
At level 9 where the mini cinemas were, and where there used to be a gaming area of sorts … Wait a sec, when was the last time I headed up to this lofty level? Was it to watch Eddie the Eagle in 2016? Or was it Assassin’s Creed? Can’t recall! I completely forgot about the level till this month.
And the food counters of the cinemas. Excluding the once bustling one on level 9, Cathay Cineplex Cineleisure still had three. One on each floor from levels 4 to 6. The one on the sixth floor stopped operating a long time ago. The remaining ones started selling fewer and fewer things. Beyond a point, I stopped buying because there was so little choice.
After the circuit breaker reopening, most downtown cinemas recovered. Cathay Cineleisure, however, never gave the impression that it did. For the whole of 2022, I watched no more than five movies here, despite my great fondness for the place. I couldn’t for there were always so few screenings for even the most anticipated blockbusters. Shaw Lido or GV Plaza always had better timings.
This year, I only watched one movie at Cineleisure. Transformers: Rise of the Beast on Jun 25. Frankly, I wouldn’t have watched this flick there had I not especially gone down because of that piece of news.
About that announcement, i.e., that Cathay Cineplex Cineleisure will officially close on Jun 30, let me put it this way. I’m sad, of course, how could I not be? But I’m not heartbroken because I anticipated the closure for years. I dare say I knew it would eventually happen after the closure of The Cathay. *
This closure made me feel old. It made me realised, geez, two decades have passed. I am now so out of it and untrendy that even the place I hung out at needs to be redeveloped. To think I used to brag to my friends that I stay young at heart becaue I watch movies every weekend at a young people’s haunt …
The tragedy …
But I suppose I shouldn’t get too sentimental. It’s meaningless to get too sentimental.
All movies have an ending, after all. With that, I suppose it’s nonsensical to expect any cinema to be around forever.
* There’s a creepy coincidence with this closure. I was at The Cathay when the closure was announced. I stepped out of the building after watching Lightyear, switched on my phone, read, and despaired.
Thanks for the Memories, Cathay!
I’m moping; I know. I shouldn’t too, since I do still have many happy memories of Cineleisure and the cinemas on the upper floors.
A happier tone is thus in order! Hereby, let me “remind” that it’s not the end of Cineleisure, thank goodness. The cineplex is closing but the facility would soon be taken over by Golden Village and The Projector. Scheduled to reopen later this year, I look forward to the upper levels of Cineleisure once again being the hip place for movies on weekends.
The building itself is also returning to life, or at least it seemed that way when I visited last weekend. The new Mcdonald’s isn’t really bustling. The basement food court is still closed. But The Assembly Ground looked busy during dinnertime. There’s also a new dessert shop next to The Assembly Ground that seemed popular.
Maybe the entire complex would be back to its previous glory come Christmas this year. Fingers crossed. Tender heart hoping.
Meanwhile, I leave these other pictures here; all were taken last Sunday (Jun 25). I will also, when my mood calls for it, reminisce about all the Saturday movie nights I enjoyed at Cineleisure. These evenings number in the hundreds. Maybe just short of a thousand.
Thank you for the memories, Cathay Cineplex Cineleisure! For 20 years, you gave me something to look forward to each week. You will always be the cinema I associate with big-screen escapism.