Ruby Theatre : Cathay's first cinema


Emmanuel You
You, Emmanuel

This picture depicts one of Cathay’s first cinemas, the Ruby Theatre, which was located at Balestier Road. My grandfather used to work there as an electrician; my grandmother would always bring my father and aunt to visit him. They would always get free staff movie tickets and watched many popular movies like the Bruce Lee series and other martial arts films. My father always recalled that they could bring in delicious food like Prawn Noodles and Fishball Noodles into the cinema for movies. These were bought from a small pushcart stall just outside the cinema, which sold extremely tasty food despite its humble outlook. 

I remember that my father described the interior of the cinema to be gigantic compared to that of the cinemas nowadays. He also told me about a particularly fun day that he spent at the cinema. On that day, my grandmother brought my father and aunt to the cinema to visit my grandfather as usual. They played around a small hut located outside the cinema and talked about their favourite movies. It also happened to be during a time when no movies were showing in the cinema and they were able to move over to the cinema to play. My father played hide-and-seek with my aunt in the deserted cinema hall. It was extremely fun as they had lots of space to hide and no one to disturb them. While my father was hiding behind one of the cinema chairs, he heard a faint meowing. He turned around and followed the sound only to find himself face-to-face with a fat grey cat. It had large, shiny eyes that glowed yellow in the dark and looked quite friendly. Cautiously, my father stretched out his hand to stroke it; the cat purred and did not fight back. At this moment, my aunt came over and saw the cat as well. She wanted to pet it and play with it too. However, my father did not want to share the cat with my aunt and they began to squabble. The cat got frightened by the noise, jumped out of my father’s hands and ran away into the darkness of the cinema hall. That was the first and last day they spent with the fat cat. My father and aunt kept looking each time they visited the cinema in the days following that, but to no avail. 

Although in present times, the Ruby Theatre has been demolished and is now replaced by Balestier Point, the memories that my father spent during his childhood are firmly edged in his mind. These memories will always stay with him and be passed on from one generation to the next.