Pearls Centre's final days

It is making way for Thomson MRT Line and mixed-use project

The two halls at Yangtze Cinema in Pearls Centre screened their last R21 movies at 5pm on Monday. The two Korean films were Taste and Man Hua Fang - the former about a married man who has affairs with his neighbours after losing his job, and the latter about an aspiring actress who cannot act.

By the end of Tuesday, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) had taken over and hoarding was put up around the building in Chinatown.

Pearls Centre has to go due to underground tunnelling works for the $18 billion Thomson Line, Singapore's sixth MRT line, spanning 30km and 22 stations. When completed in 2021, the line will connect commuters living along the north-south corridor to the heart of the city and the Marina Bay area.

The Pearls Centre site will be redeveloped into a mixed-use project housing offices, retail units and homes, with the MRT line under it.

The acquisition was announced by the Land Transport Authority and the SLA in August 2012.

A total of 199 commercial units in its four-storey mall and 44 one-, two- and three-bedroom residential units on 11 floors were affected. The shops included travel agencies, beauty parlours, traditional Chinese medicine shops and eateries.

The 23-storey strata-titled building - it also had a carpark and offices - began its 99-year lease in 1969.

While the cinema, which opened on Jan 27, 1977, was later known for R21 movies from Europe, Japan and South Korea, it started business showing mainly Hong Kong martial arts films. It began to screen R21 movies in 1995 due to the slowdown in the local movie industry and the rise of modern cineplexes.

The cinema used to have four halls. In 2011, when its popularity dipped, two halls were converted into a nightclub with a bar, a stage and 24 private KTV rooms.

Taxi driver Joe Chee, 55, used to watch wuxia and romance movies at Yangtze in the 1980s. He and his ex-classmate visited the cinema on Monday and took videos of Pearls Centre. "I feel sad as this place contains many memorable memories."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2016, with the headline 'Pearls Centre's final days'. Print Edition | Subscribe