Parting Glances: Shaw Towers

9 06 2021

Shaw Towers, a landmark along Beach Road since its completion in 1976, is now in the process of coming down. Built on a site that had partly been occupied by the old and popular Alhambra and Marlborough cinemas, the 35-floor building was, at the point of its completion, the tallest on Beach Road.

Designed by Iversen, van Sitteren and Partners and built during a time when cinema-going was a popular activity in Singapore, Shaw Towers was the first building in Singapore to house two cinemas, Prince and Jade. Occupying the second to the seventh floors of one corner of the building’s 13-storey podium, the 1952 seater Prince Theatre was then the largest cinema in Singapore. Its screen, at 28 metres wide, was the widest in the Far East. The cinema was where Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster Jaws drew the crowds in Singapore, making its debut with the cinema’s opening on 14 July 1976. Following a run of 128 days, Jaws raked in some $1.25 million in box office receipts at Prince – setting a record at the time.

Occupying the ground to third floor of the podium’s extension towards Nicoll Highway, Jade opened in November 1976 and provided a more intimate setting, with less than half the seating capacity of Prince with a capacity of 844. The cinemas were converted in the late 1980s to cineplexes and were the first multi-screen cinemas to make an appearance in Singapore.

The opening of Jade also coincided with the completion of Shaw Towers. At its completion, the first two levels of the podium featured some 242 shops. The podium also featured a carpark from the third to eleventh levels and offices from the 12th to 35th levels. Over the years, the building’s office space attracted a host of advertising firms stung by increasing rents in the Shenton Way area and also broadcasting companies. Among the latter were names such as NHK and the BBC, which moved in when its regional HQ was moved to Singapore in the year 2000.

The building, which featured the innovative use of more than 2,500 specially designed precast and pre-finished concrete units, is being replaced by a much taller building that will rise some 66 metres higher which is expected to be completed by 2024.



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2 responses

9 06 2021
CynCyn

I used to work in a company in this building from 1982 to 1987. It was on a high floor facing Nicoll Highway. I remembered there was a big piece of reclaimed land ( where Suntec is situated now).

I have fond memories of this building . On the ground floor n second floor , there were many shops: cassettes , luggages, watches , souvenirs, hair and beauty salons, Prince coffeehouse , boutiques, Jade and Prince theatre. . I remembered queueing for tickets to watch “Flashdance” at Prince theatre. It was a long queue.

19 06 2021
Hexxer

I worked in building management there for half a year in 2018. 🙂 Will miss the place because it was my first job.

When the Prince theatre was open, there used to be a cafe/restaurant that catered to cinema goers there called Prince Coffeehouse. The owners moved back into the area from coronation plaza and still run their restaurant down the road: https://g.co/kgs/7KeeJu

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