Roxy Cinema

Singapore Infopedia

by Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala


The now demolished Roxy cinema, also known as Roxy theatre, used to be sited at the junction of East Coast Road and Brooke Road (where Roxy Square now stands). Initially owned by Mr Low Peng Soy, before being taken over by the legendary Shaw brothers, it was a landmark institution screening Chinese, English, Malay and Hindustani movies in the early and mid-20th century.


Roxy Cinema opened its doors to the public on 17 February 1931 by Mr Low Peng Soy.2 It once stood opposite the popular Red House Bakery.3 The auditorium sat 1,200 people and was furnished with Western Electric sound equipment. It was reported that the first picture screened was Buck Jones, an all-talking Western romance. The theatre was designed by Messrs. Lim and Seah architects, and cost $100,000 to build.4 Its interior colour scheme was dark and light shades of green.5

The cinema was popular with Katong residents during weekends, the highlight being the Saturday night screenings.6 Some of the screenings were so popular that there was a black market for tickets once the screening was sold-out.7 The weekend morning shows were equally popular with people rushing to tie handkerchiefs on the wooden chairs’ armrests to reserve seats after paying 50 cents. Their fervour was not dimmed by the fact that ventilation relied only on ceiling fans and that black outs were common. Whenever there was a black out, the doors of the theatre would be thrown open to let fresh air in.8 It was closed for renovations and reopened in 1957, complete with air-conditioning.9 Being the first cinema in Katong, it was a haunt for the youth.10

The theatre was taken over by the famous cinema shakers, the Shaw brothers, in the early 1970s.11 The Shaw brothers’ dynamic business skills had them owning 19 cinema halls by 1965. They also contracted 30 independent halls all over the island to play only Shaw-distributed films.12 The name Roxy remained unchanged when the Shaw brothers took over and the theatre continued to screen English and non-English movies.13 Tickets for English movies were charged at $3 dollars for circle seats before the price hike in 1978.14 A popular eating place after watching a movie at the Roxy was the La Paloma Chinese restaurant next door.15 There were also stalls selling laksa, satay, mee siam, ice-water and seafood at the theatre.16

The cinema ceased its operations on 1 August 1978.17 The land on which the cinema stood was reported as sold by the Shaw brothers in July 1977.18 In its place now stands Roxy Square, a $77 million dollar shopping complex which was completed in 1984.19 The second phase of the Roxy Square development was delayed due to the recession and slump in the hotel industry in the mid-1980s.20 The former Roxy Century Park Hotel, a four-star hotel, was part of the estate that replaced the Roxy theatre.21


Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

1. Jafri Mohamed, “A Katong Story,” Marie Claire (January 1993), 20. (Call no. RSING 052 MC)
2. “The Roxy Theatre,” Straits Times, 18 February 1931, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Brenda S. A. Yeoh and Lily Kong, eds., Portraits of Places: History, Community and Identity in Singapore (Singapore: Times Editions, 1995), 121. (Call no. RSING 959.57 POR-[HIS])
4. “Roxy Theatre.”
5. “Roxy Theatre Opening,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 23 February 1931, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
6. Mohamed, “Katong Story,” 20.
7. Lily Kong and T. C Chang, Joo Chiat: A Living Legacy (Singapore: National Archives of Singapore, 2001), 113. (Call no. RSING 959.57 KON-[HIS])
8. Mohamed, “Katong Story,” 20.
9. “Reopening of Roxy Cinema,” Straits Times, 28 December 1957, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
10. “Good Old Roxy: Katong Residents Reminisce,” New Nation, 15 August 1978, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “Good Old Roxy”; “Reopening of Roxy Cinema.” 
12. Yong Shu Chiang, “Graceful 80,” Today, 13 May 2004, 30. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Kong and Chang, Living Legacy, 113; Yong, “Graceful 80.” 
14. “Five More Cinemas Allowed to Raise Ticket Prices,” Straits Times, 2 May 1978, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
15. Mohamed, “Katong Story,” 20.
16. “Good Old Roxy.”
17. “Roxy Is Sold to Property Developer,” New Nation, 12 August 1978, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
18. “$20M Complex Planned for Cinema Site,” Straits Times, 24 December 1978, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Wang Look Keah, “Katong to Have $77M Complex,” Business Times, 17 January 1981, 1; Lim Kwan Kwan, “Remember This?” Straits Times, 15 May 1984, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
20. Kalpana Rashiwala, “Roxy Square’s Phase Two Revived,” Straits Times, 16 August 1998, 33. (From NewspaperSG)
21. Rashiwala, “Roxy Square’s Phase Two Revived.” 

The information in this article is valid as of 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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