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May 7, 2012

Capitol Theatre - Then and Now

The Present

The tell-tale signs of the changes and fate of the Capitol Building at the junction of Stamford Road and North Bridge Road in Singapore are shown in the above three photos taken a few days ago and posted on this blog.

The physical changes of places and buildings in Singapore in the boardroom planning stages are known only among a few people - the URA planners, the property developers, investors, contractors and those in the building business with vested interest.

The public would only  know when the news is announced and those who have read or watched in the various local and international media channels.

For everybody else to learn the news only when the construction work in progress day and night with the road block signage, construction  workers, pile driving machinery, construction cranes, concrete mixer trucks, earth moving trucks with tippers, heavy machineries and equipments are seen at the construction sites.

Noise pollution in the construction sites caused by pneumatic hammers, air compressors, bulldozers, loaders, dump trucks and pavement breakers.  Road blocks and traffic obstruction are unavoidable during the period to cause inconvenience to the public until the building is completed.

Mr Vincent Wong said  "Lest we forget... the Capitol Theatre, Singapore. I had the opportunity to take one last look before the renovation/restoration takes over... it brings back great memories".
More photos and information for curtain call are found at  POSKOD.SG .

The "Wait and See" period

When the Capitol Theatre was closed in 1998, this dilapidated building was an eye-sore while waiting for the decision makers, planners and the interested investors to take over the site.

The 76-year-old historic Capitol Theatre has been empty since the cinema closed, reeking of urine and with its doors rotting in a derelict state.

Paint is peeling off railings and the wooden side doors are rotting.

Mechanic Steven Yong, 22, who works at Paintless Dent Removal situated in Capitol Centre's carpark next door, says: 'Only a handful of tourists come every day to take pictures of the place. Some local students drop by with their videocams to film it for their projects.'

Now, it is starring in its very own "Fright Night".

But it is unused, and has been so for eight years. The cinema closed down in 1998, its large one-screen arrangement the victim of the multiplex trend. The last picture show: a Kurt Russell sci-fi action movie called Soldier. About 500 people saw 'The End' come up for the last time in the cinema on Dec 29.

Since then, the crumbling building, which is owned by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), has been fighting its own losing battle against the forces of time.

Plans to get arts groups to move in have come to nought. As to what the future holds, no one can shed any light.

One sure thing though: The derelict building would make a great set for a Stephen King horror movie. 

The light has gone from the neon tubing forming the 'Capitol' signage.

The black wooden board used for movie posters is bare and pock- marked.

An outside staircase is boarded up; another reeks of urine and leads to a locked steel gate. 

Despite its nostalgic value, a check with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) shows that it is not gazetted as a conservation building.

All that the URA would say is that the area is part of a larger site zoned for commercial use,  such as for entertainment, retail, and food and beverage purposes.

The Business Times - June 11, 2007
By: Arthur Sim 

More prime sites could be made available if ongoing studies by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on some of these potential sites prove feasible.

So far, URA has revealed that it is studying the areas around Scotts Road and Goodwood Hill, as well as around Capitol Theatre and Capitol Centre.

URA said: 'For both studies, they involve the future redevelopment plans for only the state-owned land and properties within the respective areas.'

The URA would not say if these are part of a larger urban planning study, but it is known that a new Master Plan is expected in 2008.

The Master Plan, which was last revised in 2003, is the statutory land use plan which guides Singapore's development in the medium term, over the next 10 to 15 years. It is reviewed every five years, and translates the broad, long-term strategies set out in the Concept Plan into detailed implementable plans. It shows the permissible land use and density for every parcel of land here.

For the area comprising Capitol Theatre and Capitol Centre on North Bridge Road, URA says that the site has not been gazetted for conservation. It has been zoned for commercial use but a gross plot ratio (GPR) has not been assigned yet.

The much-loved Capitol Theatre, Capitol Building and Stamford House will be transformed into a new lifestyle destination in the Civic District, to be completed by 2014. Skyline goes behind the scenes to look at the process involved in selecting the winning scheme for this strategic sale site.

The Capitol Sale Site occupies a prime location in the heart of the city, directly opposite St. Andrew's Cathedral and Raffles City Shopping Centre. The 1.43 ha site has a prominent frontage facing Stamford Road and North Bridge Road, and includes three historically and architecturally significant conservation buildings, popular among Singaporeans – the Capitol Theatre, the Capitol Building and Stamford House.

URA's vision for development of the site is to build on its illustrious history and transform it into a new lifestyle destination within the city with a complementary mix of hotel, retail and F&B uses. The former Capitol Theatre will be refurbished into an exciting and vibrant arts or entertainment-related performance venue, to add to the flourishing arts and cultural Civic District and the nearby Bras Basah.Bugis precinct.
The Past

Once it was Singapore's grande dame of cinemas, a destination for three generations of movie-lovers eager to see the latest Hollywood flicks.

Capitol Theatre, the colonial-style building, in the middle of the bustling City Hall area, turned 76 in May, 2006.

Capitol Theatre c 1930
Capitol Theatre c 1945
Changi Bus at Capitol Theatre  c1954
Samsui women working at Capitol Theatre c 1951
Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Day decoration at Capitol Theatre, 1953
Raffles Institution overlooking Capitol Theatre c 1970
  Hippy roadside artists at Capitol Building c 1968
Inside the Capitol Theatre in the 1970s 

The Capitol Restaurant at Capitol Building in 1950
A speech by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the National Union of Journalist at Capitol Restaurant on 24 May, 1963.
Ya Fong, Sakura and Wong Sa at Capitol Restaurant for media release of "Return of the Crazy Bumpkins" in 1975
Nancy Sit Ka Yin,  16-year-old, at Capital Restarant in 1976

Note:  The old photos "For online reference viewing only" to share memories of the past on this blog with photo credit to National Archives of  Singapore with thanks and acknowledgement.

The Future

At the Vesak Day 2012 celebration, the universal teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha reminds Buddhists that "all conditioned things are impermanent and subject to change".

 “This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds. To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movements of a dance. A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky, rushing by, like a torrent down a steep mountain.” ~The Buddha
“Behold, o monks, this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation.” ~The Buddha

Like the Capitol Theatre as conditioned in the past, in the present and in the future expressed on this blog topic.

It is hoped that these changes are planned, governed for the better condition and build and strive a better world for peace, stability, harmony and prosperity... not to endanger, destroy and ruin the world through war and chaos in our society.

Besides Buddhism, every mainstream universal religion in the United Nation respect and promote world peace for everyone.  There is only "One World, Many Countries, Many Religions" to live in peace for survival of Mankind.



Blogger FL said...

In its heyday,Capitol Cinema was one of the favourite meeting places for your people. The place was so crowded with backlane hawkers, people, vehicular traffic at the junction. I watched most movies at Capitol with friends during the early 1970s. It's sad that it is in such a state now, and could probably be under the hammer. I hope not.

May 9, 2012 at 11:33 PM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Thank you for sharing your comments, FL.

Construction on Capitol Building has started with 24/7 non-stop work in 2-years so a 8 decade heritage building in Singapore to be replaced by a same place with different utilities with a modernised design with fresh facelift.

The facade and neo-colonial external architectural building design to retain certain original structures for Capitol Theatre to remember fond nostalgic memories.

May 10, 2012 at 1:27 PM  
Blogger Enda Craig said...

I think I went to the capitol theatre in the summer of 1964 to see a Bond film. Does anyone know if this is the cinema that had 'double seats' at the back upstairs?....if it does then I have the right place.Memory fading now but happy teenage days always remembered in the old Singapore that once was. A magical place in the 60's.

June 25, 2017 at 5:36 AM  
Blogger Enda Craig said...

I think I went to the capitol theatre in the summer of 1964 to see a Bond film. Does anyone know if this is the cinema that had 'double seats' at the back upstairs?....if it does then I have the right place.Memory fading now but happy teenage days always remembered in the old Singapore that once was. A magical place in the 60's.

Valerie Craig

June 25, 2017 at 5:37 AM  

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