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SINGAPORE: The Cathay Cineplex saw a muted final day of operations on Sunday (Jun 26), with some nostalgic moviegoers booking tickets for the cinema’s last screenings.

Friends Diana and Fred, who only wanted to be known by their first names, said they decided to watch Jurassic World Dominion there on Sunday for old times’ sake.

“I knew we’d be catching this movie and since we want to watch it, we might as well watch it over here. Especially since it’s the last time The Cathay Cineplex will be here,” Fred told CNA.

“After that… I think it’s quite sad. Because this is quite iconic, The Cathay has been around for a very long time, for moviegoers like me it’s like we want to keep a piece of history with us.”

Diana recalled the first movie she ever watched at The Cathay almost 30 years ago – the 1994 version of Little Women starring Winona Ryder.

“I watched it here a long time ago, I was in primary school. But ever since they renovated this place, we did come for a few shows, but that’s about it,” she added.

“They’ve taken away one of the historical cinematic places that people in Singapore would come to watch movies. Definitely, they’ve taken that away.”

When CNA visited the Cathay Cineplex – located at the iconic Cathay Building on Handy Road – at about 2.30pm, there were lines forming at the box office and snack counters, just in time for the 2.45pm screening of Jurassic World Dominion.

Staff at the box office counter were also handing out small boxes of complimentary popcorn to patrons.

Most of the patrons CNA spoke to knew it was the last day of operations.

Announcing the closure just over a week ago on Jun 17, Cathay Cineplexes and media company mm2 Asia said this decision is part of “cost rationalisation for its cinema operations”.

mm2 Asia acquired Cathay Cineplexes in Singapore in 2017.

From CNA’s checks on ticket availability for Sunday afternoon’s shows, most screenings still had vacant seats, with about a third to half of the seats taken up.

mm2 Asia did not respond to questions on Sunday’s sales, or whether there were any special arrangements made for the cinema’s last day of operations.

The last show of the day at The Cathay Cineplex was a 9pm screening of Top Gun Maverick.

Father and daughter pair, 39-year-old Clare and 69-year-old David Lim, were aware that it would be the last day of operations when they booked their tickets for Jurassic World Dominion.

Mr Lim, who has been watching movies at The Cathay for the past 30 years, said his family has fond memories of having lunch and dinner at the food outlets downstairs.

“She never really come here. I (started) coming here even before she was born,” said Mr Lim, gesturing at his daughter.

“(I felt) normal. Nothing special. My daughter insist I come here one,” he said with a chuckle, when asked how he felt about the cinema’s closure.

“So many years (ago), it didn’t used to look like that last time.”

The Handy Road outlet in the Dhoby Ghaut area is one of eight Cathay Cineplexes in Singapore. All existing employees will be redeployed to the other outlets, mm2 Asia said.

The closure was a business decision, said mm2 Asia’s group CEO Chang Long Jong at the time of the announcement.

“Over the years, retail traffic demographics have changed. We have had to evaluate the commercial viability of operating two cinemas in the Orchard shopping belt within 1.5km of each other and within 300m of another multiplex,” he added.

Cathay’s Cineplexes’ other cinema in Orchard is at Cineleisure.

The Cathay Building was once the tallest building in Singapore. It used to house the Cathay cinema, which opened in 1939. It was also the first public space in Singapore to be equipped with air-conditioning.

After Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942, it became home to the Japanese Propaganda Department.

The building was gazetted as a national monument in 2003.

In place of The Cathay Cineplex, local independent cinema The Projector will welcome patrons as a pop-up from Aug 23, Cathay Organisation announced on Jun 17.

“Patrons of The Cathay and fans of The Projector can look forward to enjoying The Projector’s curation of films and live performances, complete with a cocktail and craft beer bar from Aug 23, 2022, onward,” said the company.

The new cinema, named Project X: Picturehouse, is a tribute to the building’s “arthouse cinema past”, the organisation said.

Mr Augustine Tee, 35, who was with two friends from church to watch the Ah Girls Go Army sequel, recalled attending events outside The Cathay as well.

“There were a lot of events outside, so it’s not like you just come here for the cinema,” he added.

“When it first opened it was quite cool, because you can buy tickets at level one, and then just take the lift up to the cinema.”

The first movie he watched at The Cathay Cineplex was the 1995 version of Jumanji, Mr Tee said, adding that he has happy memories of watching movies there during his National Service days, he told CNA.

“I felt sad (when I heard the news), because it was a very historical thing around for many many years. And for me, I’ve seen how it was reborn over the years.”

Mr Edmund Goh and Ms Eunice Chu, both 28, who were waiting for another friend to catch Lightyear, said they still remember catching movies at The Cathay Cineplex during their secondary school days.

The three of them decided just a few days ago to watch the movie together at The Cathay Cineplex.

The cinema at The Cathay is one of their usual movie spots, which Ms Chu described as “the most iconic one”. But the two friends also added that they do not watch movies there as often as before, and usually go to more convenient locations closer to their homes.

Ms Chu added: “It feels like when the Queensway Cinema closed down. This feels like how my parents would have felt when that happened.”