Following in the footsteps of the Shanghai Film Art Center and New Hengshan Cinema, the Cathay Theater, a Shanghai star-rated cinema located on Huaihai Road in Huangpu District, will suspend operations for renovations on August 25.
Built in 1930, the movie theater announced on its WeChat account that facilities and services of the time-honored theater will be upgraded to offer movie buffs a better cinematic experience, and when it wil be reopened is yet to know.
Underwritten by the Cantonese cinema tycoon Lu Gen and designed by renowned architect Charles Henry Gonda, the Art Deco-style theater opened on January 1, 1932, with more than a thousand seats. Its opening film was the American drama, "A Free Soul," starring Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard.
At that time, the cinema usually presented simultaneous screenings of first-run Hollywood and European movies such as "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "The Great Waltz." It was a popular entertainment venue for Chinese celebrities, including writer Eileen Chang and film stars like Zhao Dan, Qin Yi and Shangguan Yunzhu.
Qin once described how excited she was when she saw posters for her movies exhibited in the cinema, a place she frequented as a child.
In the early 1990s, the theater was granted municipal preservation status due to its long history. Since 1993, it has been one of the designated venues for the Shanghai International Film Festival's screenings, premieres and cultural events.
The Cathay was renovated in 2003 and divided into three theaters of different styles. Every month, it offers at least one free screening for the community and sells discounted tickets for students and seniors.
Professor Shi Chuan, vice president of the Shanghai Film Association and a film expert from the Shanghai Theater Academy, said the cinema is a historical heritage that has witnessed the city's development and become a unique and integral memory for generations of people in Shanghai.
He recalled seeing Chinese director Sang Hu's comedy "Twins Come in Pairs" and the Hollywood blockbuster "Titanic" at the theater when he was young.
"However, in terms of the rapid development of the film industry, old cinemas have to upgrade their equipment and services to cater to audience demand," said Shi.
The renovation, in his eyes, should take its historical value into account.
"It's a challenge for the city's administrators and constructors to demonstrate their true wisdom," he said. "Preserving the theater's architectural structure and decor while enhancing its functions isn't an easy job."