Monday, December 12, 2011


It was many months ago that I last visited the cinema to see a movie. No. It has been no less than three years ago. Last Saturday with the urge of the family I found myself at a matinee show in the cinema hall at Alamanda Putrajaya. The movie 'Ombak Rindu' was good in all characteristics since it pulled you to see the film to the last. Scenes shot at Gunong Jerai, Langkawi and a riverside some where in Kedah  all made the movie authentic and alive. Sufficient that it is a box office hit now. Not to mention the actors and actresses for their performances. As the title goes be ready to have your tissues ready. 

No I am not about to talk about the film but to grasp with one that came to mind when I was waiting in the foyer to enter the cinema hall before the scheduled time. At that very moment I was transported back into time. Not far back but distance enough to retreat at least a half century ago. I looked at the colorful posters that acclaimed the movies on show or the forthcoming ones. They were sizable printed copies large enough to be noticed ten yards away. They attract the audience to realize what are forthcoming at their favorite cinema.Those posters and other photos about the current movies on show or those forthcoming must have come together with the movies. The people at the movie house have only to place them where necessary. 

You who knew the cinema as before may recollect that cinema halls in the past had resident artists as their employees. I remember 'Pak Hassan' of the Empire  Theatre in Alor Setar. A senior man in his forties he had the indomitable duty of painting large sized posters of the forth coming movies at the cinema. Be it a 'tarzan' picture, a gorilla or a 'Gary Cooper' cowboy film, you would find posters right in front of the cinema hall  days before the film was scheduled for screening. They were not life size but giants in comparison. I remembered that his drawings were life-like and attraction pullers. At times they were paraded round town attached to the bodies of lorries that canvassed for the films currently on show.  Pak Hassan must have been 'commisioned' to draw hundreds of posters, portraits of movie stars and other images. Thinking back if only those posters or 'masterpieces' were salvaged they would have been a collector's dream now. Imagine selling them in EBay or at Hollywood itself. And what about the productions from the other cinemas in the country. Alas we were unaware of their contributions or we failed to value their assets. Like many others they suffered the fate of being discarded. Yes much we do not know and only live to regret. Now there are no more Pak Hassan or no more resident artists at the cinema halls. I do not want to think whether Pak Hassan's sons or daughters managed to salvage some of his works or if ever they realized his contribution to the arts in Malaysia.

Then, I gazed at the wall with eight slots marked " Now Seating". At first it baffled me. If we had only one cinema hall with all its characteristic then here the audiences had the choice of eight halls showing different movies at specific times. Entrance is allowed once the slot is lighted. Just like others I too waited for the lights to be on at No 2. The hall where Ombak Rindu would be shown. What an adventure! Back then either the black curtain was pulled aside or the door was opened with the attendant standing to tear your ticket and returned the other half to you. Keep it for otherwise you may have to move from your seat if someone demanded to sit there. Now tickets were numbered and you sat at seats allocated. Back then for several classes, early entries get the better seats; unless you bought first class or reserved class seats. Let's not talk about the comforts of the seats!   

Purchasing tickets? If it was a good movie expect there to be a big crowd. You would probably buy tickets through the black market.Of course with extra dollars for the guy who had ventured forth to push himself over the crowd at the ticket booths. All are made easier now. You can buy tickets via your phones and pay pal etc. Maybe the adventure of going to the cinema has been taken away. 

Back again to the past you would not like to bring refreshments into the hall. 'Kacang' or 'koci' would be acceptable for reasons you would know why. Surprised when the lights were on after the show at seeing the floor of the cinema halls. Now 'pop corn' and beverages in containers accompany you into the hall. Even in exclusive kiosks you may be served with hot drinks too while enjoying your movie.

Be that for the meantime as the opportunity allowed me to recapitulate what comforts we enjoyed when going to the cinemas during times before 'Merdeka'. But one thing for sure we picked up and improved our English with attendance at the cinemas and reading the 'movie news' magazines. Even learning to sing popular English or later Hindustani songs came from the frequency of patronizing the cinemas. Yes we even gathered 'programs' or pamphlets  that were distributed in the towns by distributors who came on trishaw or lorry. 

The old cinema halls have all been pulled down or converted to other usages. At one time it looked like the movie houses were destined for their ends.Sadly or otherwise the new cinemas with their technologies are making a come-back and the movie industries  are moving into finer directions. TV programs were heralded as putting the death knell to the movie industries. That too has not come about. In fact movies come into TV as well with purchases to be made for the movie you would like to see at home.

It is interesting to know how the movie houses in US, Japan etc are functioning now. What are their extra qualifications in the industry?


Al-Manar said...

Last Saturday you went to a movie and another three years ago. I have not been to one over 20 (repeat over twenty) years ago. What does it look like now- rows of wooden benches right in front for 3rd class ?

It is truly wonderful how you describe the main features of yester-years movies. It was all there as describe.

And the scramble at the ticket windows, literally scrambled on top of one another.

Those are memories you and I keep, of some small pleasures we enjoyed. I remember when P Ramlee suggested that PAngong WAyang GAMbar be replaced with PAWAGAM. He had better idea than those in DBP today, who would have suggested 'sinima'.

kotastar said...

Sdr Al Manar,
hank you for yr appreciation of what we experienced before. I guess when memories are still clear we can still recapture the old happenings and put them in black and white.yes the case of the third class long benches would be more interesting especially when you had to tie your handkerchiefs to reserve yr seats and at times getting the front most row to come home with a stiff neck. Thank you for yr contributions. Salam