Capitol Theatre to re-open: 10 things about the new Capitol Singapore

Capitol Piazza, Capitol Singapore’s retail component. The historic Capitol Theatre is finally re-opening on May 19. -- PHOTO: CAPITOL SINGAPORE
Capitol Piazza, Capitol Singapore’s retail component. The historic Capitol Theatre is finally re-opening on May 19. -- PHOTO: CAPITOL SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - The historic Capitol Theatre is finally re-opening on May 19 - when Singapura: The Musical, a lavish take on 10 pivotal years of local history - will be the opening act.

It is 17 years after it welcomed its last cinema patron in 1998.

The 85-year-old landmark started as a theatre in the 1930s, then became the flagship cinema of the Shaw Organisation from 1946.

Here's more about its past glory days, and what's to come, under Capitol Singapore, an integrated luxury lifestyle development.

THEN

1. "A thing of romance"

When the Capitol Theatre opened in 1930, it was fitted with the latest in theatre and cinema technology at the time, and sat more than 1,600 people in its auditorium.

Both the theatre and the Capitol Building beside it were built by Persian businessman M.A. Namazie. The Capitol Building was completed in 1933.

"Singapore's legion of amusement seekers would find an entertainment comparable with the highest standard presented in the leading British, European and American picture houses," a Straits Times article in May 1930 read.

The reporter also called the building "a thing of romance, a dream solidified, a battle won".

2. Unique architecture

Besides the Capitol Theatre and Building, the Stamford House is the third building integrated into the new Capitol Singapore. All three have distinct architectural features.

The Stamford House, built in 1904, is of the Venetian Renaissance style. Ornate detailing, keystone arches and Venetian windows give it a European flavour.

Capitol Building's most distinctive feature is its concave curved corner facing the junction of Stamford Road and North Bridge Road.

An older generation of Singaporeans will also remember the sculptures of winged horses, and a mosaic of 12 zodiac signs on the domed ceiling in the Capitol Theatre.

3. Where romance blossomed

Capitol screened first-run English language films, and later Hong Kong films. The latest blockbusters would make their debut on its screen before graduating to second-run cinemas.

It was where couples went for their first dates in the 60s, and many have fond memories of the popular Magnolia Snack Bar in the Capitol Building.

4. Falling into disuse

Shaw submitted plans in the 1970s to redevelop both Capitol Theatre and Capitol Building, but government approval was not forthcoming.

In 1987, the authorities bought the two buildings but continued to lease the cinema to Shaw, which screened its last movie there in 1998.

5. Long delay

The project was handed over to the Singapore Tourism Board to pursue in 2000. But in 2006, it decided not to proceed and handed it back to the Singapore Land Authority. In 2007, it was declared a conservation area. Finally in 2010, a syndicate of investors won the right to redevelop the 542,382 sq ft site.

NOW

1. Old and new

The mixed-use complex in North Bridge Road now comprises four buildings: Three conservation buildings - Capitol Theatre, Capitol Building and Stamford House, and the new Capitol Piazza.

The Capitol Piazza - a four-storey mall - will be connected to City Hall MRT station diagonally across the road. It is aiming to attract shoppers with brands new to Singapore and flagship stores.

2. Cinema and theatre

With 900 seats, the theatre will be the biggest single-screen cinema in South-east Asia. It is also the only dual-purpose theatre in Singapore, and can host arts and film events.

The theatre will open with Singapura: The Musical, in May. 

3. Foodie haven

The new complex will house a wide range of food and beverage outlets. Diners can look forward to famed roast duck specialist Four Seasons from London, Parisian tearoom Angelina, and local favourites like Balestier Bak Kut Teh, among others.

Read more here.

4. Ultra-luxury residences

There are 39 "ultra-exclusive" apartments at Eden Residences Capitol, which sold at an average of $3,000 per square foot earlier this year.

Visitors can stay at the "ultra-luxury" six-star hotel The Patina, run by Pontiac Land, which owns other high-end hotels such as Capella on Sentosa and The Conrad Centennial.

5. Gardens in the Capitol

Landscape architect Grant Associates, which designed parts of Gardens by the Bay, said it tried to "create a little oasis" in the city with Capitol.

This oasis will be filled with lush greenery, water walls, themed gardens and unusual plants.

Read more here.

Sources: Urban Redevelopment Authority, Capitol Singapore, Shaw Organisation website