Coliseum Cinema's Still Thriving
(A Special Report and Interview with Coliseum's Owner)
AUGUST 10 2006: The on-going news that the Coliseum cinema in Kuala Lumpur is to be turned into a National Heritage Centre by the Government may give people the impression that the cinema is not doing so well. Not so, its owner told this blog. The cinema is a thriving business concern serving the community in the busy Golden Triangle area of the city.
"We are doing very good business," Dr Chua Seong Siew, 68, told yours truly yesterday. "The Coliseum is the most popular hall for Indian movies in Kuala Lumpur, serving the middle and lower-income groups in the area. I hope the Government will allow us to continue the business which was started by my family since 1938."
Cinema manager Encik Sofie Babu, 29, said on weekdays, they collected about RM3,000 to RM4,000 and on weekends, about RM8,000 to RM10,000. "The movies shown here are mostly Tamil films distributed by Lotus Five-Star, a local company," he said. "Our clientele on weekdays are mainly workers in the Golden Triangle area, especially Jalan Masjid India, who pop in to catch a movie after work. There are also many Indonesian, Pakistani and Filipino workers among them. In the weekends, we get families among the crowd."
Sofie (pictured above) said the 828-seat Coliseum, now managed by Coliseum Cinemas Sdn Bhd, employs 12 staff, including cashiers, projectionists and stewards. "The cinema is particularly crowded in the weekends as the area in front of the building becomes a hive of activity."
On the RM500,000 compensation offered by the Government, Dr Chua said that amount could not even buy a fraction of a shoplot in the prime shopping area. "A shoplot in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman is worth a few million Ringgit and the Coliseum is made up of five shoplots," said Dr Chua, adding that “I would not part with the property on my own free will”.
Dr Chua said in the post-World War years from 1948 to 1968, Coliseum was the top cinema in Kuala Lumpur, showing the latest Western movies. "When more and more cinemas were built, my mother started concentrating on Malay films and we were the top hall for Malay movies at that time," he said. "Then in 1990, when Finas (the National Film Board) came out with a ruling that all cinemas must show each local Malay film for at least a week, Coliseum's mainstay as a bastion for Malay movies declined. And we moved on to showing Indian movies."
The Coliseum remains the only ‘stand-alone' cinema in Kuala Lumpur with its traditional ‘Reserved class' (or balcony seats). Ticket prices are at RM11 for Reserved seats and RM9 for First Class seats. On Wednesdays, the prices are RM8 for Reserved class and RM6 for First Class.
Dr Chua said he will be meeting Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim next week to resolve the acquisition issue. Meanwhile, many cinema-goers and members of the public have urged the Government to leave the 86-year-old Coliseum cinema alone.