Box office hits the east

The recent opening of GV Paya Lebar and Cathay Parkway Parade opens up new entertainment options for Easties

They might have the Peranakan shophouses and the famous laksas, but residents in the eastern part of Singapore are not particularly well-served in one department: cinemas.

Just two months ago, if you look at the broad swathe between Kallang and Tampines, you would find only one cineplex - GV Katong, which opened at the I12 Katong mall in Joo Chiat Road in 2011.

Of course this leaves out the two cinemas in Golden Mile Tower in Beach Road. But The Projector is an arthouse venue, while Rex Cinemas Golden Mile Tower screens movies for the Indian community.

We are talking about mainstream cineplexes where you can catch the latest Hollywood flicks.

Fortunately for people who live in the east, change is afoot.

Last week, a brand new cineplex opened at SingPost Centre in Paya Lebar. GV Paya Lebar has eight halls and a 756-seat capacity.

What you will see in areas like Paya Lebar, Bedok and Funan are our efforts in making cinema-going more convenient.

MS CLARA CHEO, Golden Village chief

It boasts a sharp laser-projection system in every hall. In this system, lasers are used instead of lamps to project the film, and this creates bright images.

Then, there is Cathay Parkway Parade, which opened last month in the shopping centre in Marine Parade Road.

Both operators say that these cinemas fill a gap in the east.

Ms Clara Cheo, chief executive of Golden Village, Singapore's largest cinema chain, says that the new GV Paya Lebar has had a "very high occupancy rate" since its opening last week, especially during the evening peak sessions.

Golden Village's other movie theatre in the east, GV Katong, is also performing well, especially on weekends. Weekdays see a steady stream of regulars from the neighbourhood.

This is despite it being one of only two GV cinemas not on the doorstep of an MRT station (the other is GV City Square).

Over at Cathay Parkway Parade, not being close to an MRT station has also had no noticeable impact.

A Cathay spokesman says that "footfall has been increasing steadily".

Looking ahead, residents in the east should grab their popcorn and Diet Cokes because there is more to come: Golden Village is opening GV Bedok next year at the site of the redeveloped Princess Theatre.

Ms Cheo says that the housing estate is "underserved".

"It used to house four cinemas to serve its residents, but today, there are no cinemas in the area to serve what is the most populated area in the east."

Some may be surprised to know that the island can accommodate more cinemas, when recently, statistics showed a fall in year-on-year cinema attendance for the first time since 2015.

Seasonal factors affect attendance, says Ms Cheo. These include the quality and number of movies released, age classifications and amount of movie piracy going on.

While more screens might not translate to more viewership, the new screens are opened for different reasons.

"What you will see in areas like Paya Lebar, Bedok and Funan are our efforts in making cinema-going more convenient. These areas do not have cineplexes despite a gradual population increase over the years," she says.


GV PAYA LEBAR

Opened: Oct 6

Where: SingPost Centre mall

Transport: Within walking distance of Paya Lebar MRT station, bus, taxi

Size: Eight halls, 756 seats

Features: A premium Duo Deluxe hall, bright and sharp laser-projection system in every hall and special menu items such as banana fritters, beef chilli cheese fries and basil cheese pizza.

Review: I bought a ticket for a weekday afternoon screening of Blade Runner 2049 and was immediately struck by how crisp and bright the screen was. Every whisker on lead actor Ryan Gosling's face was revealed. The laser projection system does live up to the hype.

The sharp audio made the flying cars seem to come in over my head and onto the screen.

The chairs are comfortable - thickly padded and covered in soft fabric. The downside is slightly reduced knee room because of the padding.

Also, like many venues with fewer than 900 seats, the reduced hall size means a smaller screen, though size is usually forgotten after the first five minutes of a movie.

The cineplex's third-floor location means a short escalator ride and the trip is relatively direct.

The toilets are a few steps from the exits. The gents is small, with two urinals and one stall. But it was clean and dry, and the hand-dryer worked.

CATHAY PARKWAY PARADE

Opened: Sept 28

Where: Parkway Parade

Transport: Bus, taxi

Size: Seven halls, 880 seats

Features: For those with hearing impairment, the Assistive Listening Device system is available. Parkway Parade is a large mall, well served by independent shops and large retail chains.

Review: The hall where I caught a weekday morning screening of Kingsman: The Golden Circle seemed a little larger, and with a larger screen, than the hall at GV Paya Lebar.

That makes sense as this cinema has more seats split among fewer halls.

Unlike GV Paya Lebar, which has thick foam-and-fabric chairs, Cathay has opted for a thinly padded design covered in vinyl, called "leatherette".

They have less give, but because thinner chairs take up less space, they are magnificently roomy, with lots of stretch space for legs and bottoms.

The screen was bright and sharp, though not a match for GV Paya Lebar's laser-projection system.

Popping out to use the toilets is not a trek as they are close to the halls. The facility is also larger than the one at Paya Lebar or Katong, and is clean and dry, with a working hand-dryer.

Parkway Parade is a big mall and access to the cinema on level 7 means a longish escalator ride from the ground level. Moviegoers can also take a lift that opens into the rooftop carpark, but a short walk to the cinema entrance is needed.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 15, 2017, with the headline 'Box office hits the east'. Print Edition | Subscribe