1 picturehouse the projector pop up the cathay cinema

Lim Yaohui

The pop-up cinema Projector X: Picturehouse, run by independent cinema The Projector opens its doors today (Aug 19) in the space formerly occupied by Cathay Cineplex at The Cathay building on Handy Road.

It kicks off this soft launch with three special titles that will screen from Friday to Sunday.

The first film is the Singapore music documentary Scene Unseen (2021). Next up is horror classic The Shining (1980) on Saturday, and local military comedy Army Daze (1996) on Sunday.

Special events will also take place. Expect a live DJ set following the Scene Unseen screening and free popcorn for those dressed in The Shining-themed outfits.

The soft launch aims to iron out operational issues, says The Projector’s general manager Prashant Somosundram.

In addition to the special titles, regular fare such as Jordan Peele’s horror science-fiction film Nope (2022) and the Oscar-nominated Japanese drama Drive My Car (2021) have been added to the opening schedule.

When it is fully operational from Aug 27, the cinema aims to screen both art-house and mainstream content, says Mr Somosundram.

(Read more: Why cinemas aren’t going away, according to Golden Village CEO Clara Cheo)

Behind the pop-up project

Cathay Cineplex ceased operations on June 27 following a cost-rationalisation exercise by its operator mm2 Asia.

The Cathay cinema on Handy Road had been in operation since 1939 and was Singapore’s first air-conditioned cinema. It is housed in a landmark building that is today a protected national monument.

The Projector has operated at Golden Mile Tower on Beach Road since 2014. They were then offered the space by landlord Cathay Organisation to run a pop-up, similar to the one The Projector launched at Riverside Point in 2021.

Projector X: Picturehouse will use four halls for regular screenings. They include the small 25-seat premium hall and the largest space, the 592-seat hall, along with two other halls, at 292 and 250 seats respectively.

The remaining four halls not used for screenings can still function as art and theatre spaces, says Mr Somosundram.

(Read more: The evolution of Singapore cinema)

What to expect at Projector X: Picturehouse

The No Spoilers Bar will feature a full kitchen, and will serve drinks including wine, beer and cocktails. Dishes include sticky Korean popcorn chicken, beef cheek rendang and vegan bowls.

The bar will adopt environmentally sustainable policies, such as composting food waste. They will also be giving discounts to those who take along their own takeaway containers.

Open spaces have been filled with upcycled furniture, much of it donated by friends of The Projector.

The spaces include the Bladerunner Ballroom, which will host art exhibitions in the future. Other activities include live events such as DJ nights, live cabaret and spoken word performances.

The pop-up’s name pays tribute to art-house cinema The Picturehouse.

Opened in 1990, it was demolished to make way for the current The Cathay building on Handy Road, which opened in 2006. One of the halls in the then-newly-opened Cathay Cineplex was named The Picturehouse.

(Read more: Founder of arthouse cinema The Projector champions local films before they make it big)

Despite challenges, excitement prevails

Ms Karen Tan, founder of The Projector, is excited to launch the pop-up despite the challenges, such as the costs of setting up what might turn out to be a short-term project. Under the terms of the lease, the end date of the pop-up cannot be disclosed.

She says: “But we still had to do this because it’s a rare opportunity to operate a space out of The Cathay, which has such an illustrious history.”

Mr Somosundram calls the pop-up a “validation” for The Projector. This is given that a landlord in a central area was willing to entrust its space to a relatively young organisation.

He says: “For eight years, we’ve been running a niche space. For Cathay Organisation to be interested in the work that we do was quite significant for us.”

For information about the schedule of films at Projector X: Picturehouse and bookings, go to The Projector website.

Related: Jon Lister, CEO and creative director of CreatorsLab, shares his love for filmmaking

This story was originally published in The Straits Times.