The Singapore debut of The Capitol of Singapore

4 05 2022

Anyone stepping into Capitol Theatre will get an immediate sense of a grace and elegance that is a reflection of the age that the theatre was built in and that and the building’s evolution over the years has been captured on film, through a documentary “The Capitol of Singapore” that makes its Singapore debut this Friday, 6 May 2022, at The Capitol! Two screenings of the film have been scheduled in conjunction with Singapore HeritageFest 2022, the other screening being on 7 May. Directed by French filmmaker Raphaël Millet, Friday’s screening of the film — also known as “Le Capitol de Singapour”, the film, will mark the first time that it will be seen outside of France. More information on the screenings and a link to the booking page can be found at this link.

Capitol Theatre

Built from 1929 to 1930, the theatre was designed by Keys and Dowdeswell at a time when the formerly government employed pair had ventured into private architectural practice. The cinema, the most progressive of the day in Singapore and Malaya, reflected the aspirations of the architect, as much that it did those of its wealthy owner, Mr Mirza Mohamed Ali (M A) Namazie — a Madras (Chennai) born Muslim of Persian origin who had substantial holdings in property and also in the rubber trade.

No expense seems to have been spared in the building of the Capitol. Not only was it large by the standards of the day, but the Capitol was also the first cinema hall in Singapore and Malaya to feature forced ventilation. Maximising the comfort of its patrons, the ventilation system reduced the necessity for large ventilation openings, thus keeping noise at a minimum. This would have been especially desirable, given that the cinema was built during the progression from the silent age of cinema to the new era of the talkies.

Before its refurbishment,

That Capitol Theatre is still with us over 90 years after it screened its first movie, is itself a remarkable story.  The cinema faced a string of challenges from very outset; its opening night plagued by the poor performance of its audio system due to Singapore’s high levels of humidity. Caught up in the excitement of watching Bebe Daniels and John Boles star in the musical production “Rio Rita” in a cinema of Capitol’s stature, not many apparently noticed.

At the end of its refurbishment in 2015.

The death of Mr M A Namazie in July 1931, and the effects of the Great Depression, prompted a change of ownership at the end of 1932. The Japanese Occupation of Singapore would see the cinema utilised as the Kyoei Gekizyo, opening in November 1942. Besides screening movies, the Kyoei also played host to recitals, concerts and other performances, as well as rallies and meetings, some of which were organised by the Overseas Chinese Association. Anti-Japanese saboteurs set off an explosion in early 1945, which caused sufficient damage to see that it would never used by the Japanese again. Capitol Theatre was given a new lease of life in January 1946 when it reopened, having been refurbished by the Shaw Brothers at a cost of half-a-million dollars. The cinema screened its last movie in December 1998 before being revived as a theatre in May 2015.

The Capitol’s elegant interior.


At the heart of Singapore’s Civic and Cultural District stands Capitol Theatre, a historical landmark that has borne witness to Singapore’s transformation over the years.

The documentary film, The Capitol of Singapore, traces the evolution of this historical building, from its founding in 1930 as a state-of-the-art theatre and shopping arcade; its requisition by the Japanese during the Second World War; its years as a top cinema where Hollywood blockbusters and local movie premieres were shown; its eventual decline into disuse and disrepair; and finally, its resurrection, after undergoing preservation and conservation works, to its present day incarnation as part of the integrated development Capitol Singapore, which is owned and managed by Perennial Holdings Private Limited. Capitol Singapore houses The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore, Eden Residences Capitol as well as a retail mall and the iconic theatre.

The film delves into the heritage of Capitol Theatre through a look at the theatre’s original architecture and personal stories recounting what it has meant for many Singaporeans. Like a phoenix reborn, Capitol Theatre has stood the test of time, reinventing itself at every turn to stay relevant for each generation to come. In telling the story of Capitol Theatre, the film also explores, in parallel, the history of Singapore cinema, highlighting the golden years of film production when Singapore was at the centre of Southeast Asia’s film industry, producing films in Malay and the various Chinese dialects and drawing talent from across Asia.

During this period, Singapore was also a known locale for international film productions, attracting filmmakers from both Hong Kong and Hollywood. The Capitol Theatre made Singapore a top Asian destination for many film stars, with celebrity visits from the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Ava Gardner and Douglas Fairbanks who graced their film premieres in Singapore.

Through the story of Capitol Theatre, the film journeys into Singapore’s past and in doing so, reflects upon its present and future.


Royston Tan’s Old Romances《老情人》

7 12 2012

In a world that is changing too fast, it is often only the memories of places dear to us that we are able to cling on to, memories in which we often discover what we have left behind. As with its forerunner Old Places, Royston Tan’s seeks to discover that through the words of the man on the street, and discover in each, “an old lover’s story waiting to be untold”. The stories explore many places in which we as Singaporeans may have collective memories in, and of which in the words of the director “almost 50% will be gone by the time we premiere this”. The premiere of Old Romances and a screening of Old Places will take place over the weekend of 15/16 Dec 2012 at the National Museum. More information can be found listed below. Tickets for the screenings cost S$11 (including handling fees) or S$10 for Senior Citizens and are available at TICKETBOOTH. DVDs will be on sale on both days with autograph signing sessions arranged. Part of the ticket proceeds will be donated to the charity Action for Aids.

Barber Shop 2

Carnival 3

Film Schedule

15 December 2012, Saturday

2.30pm: Old Romances followed by Q&A

16 December 2012, Sunday

2.30pm: Old Places followed by Q&A
4.30pm: Old Romances followed by Q&A

Chay Hong 1

Ticketing Information

S$11 per ticket (includes handling fees)
S$10 per ticket (Senior Citizen concession, includes handling fees)

Tickets can be purchased at TICKETBOOTH outlets or on the TICKETBOOTH website


National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre, Basement

About Old Romances《老情人》

“Old places are like old lovers to me, you never forget them.” – Royston Tan

Comic Shop 2

Executive Producer: Royston Tan

Directors: Royston Tan, Eva Tang and Victric Thng

67 min / Documentary


There is romance in every corner we turn. In this sequel to the documentary, Old Places, Old Romances takes us on a journey to experience Singapore through the collective voices of ordinary Singaporeans.

Through their voices, we hear personal stories from members of the public who shared their anecdotes on radio. Everyday spaces come alive with these special memories, which are bonded forever with these places.

Old Romances is a journal of love letters to places that we grew up with.

Church 2

Director’s Statement

“What triggered me to do Old Romances was the great public response for wanting a sequel to Old Places. I believe that in every old place, there is always an old lover’s story waiting to be untold. How great is it to have this story told by ordinary Singaporeans from all walks of life. I received an email recently from a lady who was taking the MRT and as she looked out of the train at everything that seemed so familiar, they were really places that were depleting by the minute. It’s almost like we Singaporeans are suffering from the dementia of our society due to our rapid urban development. With this, I feel the need to archive all the stories and old places of which almost 50% will be gone by the time we premiere this.”


Places featured

  • Tanjong Pagar Canteen at Tanjong Pagar
  • Lee Kee Book Company at Chinatown
  • Lim Kay Khee Optical House at Balestier Road
  • Carnival Beauty Salon at East Coast Road
  • Sembawang Hill Estate Taxi Service at Sembawang Hill
  • Kim Choo Kueh Chang at East Coast Road
  • Chop Wah Hin Sheet Metal Works at Balestier Road
  • Seng Hong Coffeeshop at Lengkok Bahru
  • Gim Joo Textile Co Pte Ltd at Arab Street
  • New Century Record Co. at Tanjong Katong
  • Poh Onn Tong Medical Shop at Tanglin Hall
  • Thin Huat Provision Shop at Tanglin Hall
  • Hong San See Temple at Mohd Sultan
  • Kong Tee Peng Temple at Chinatown
  • Lao Sai Tao Yuan Teochew Wayang
  • Sliat Walk Estate
  • Feng Huang Puppet Troupe
  • Yet Con Chicken Rice at Purvis Street
  • Bukit Merah View Hair Dressing Salon at Bukit Merah
  • Old Playgrounds
  • Pearl Bank Apartments at Chinatown
  • St Joseph Church at Victoria Street
  • Japanese Cemetery at Chuan Hoe Avenue
  • Cashin House at Lim Chu Kang
  • St John Island
  • Union Farm Eating House at Clementi Road
  • Tan Moh Hong Reptile Skin & Crocodile Farm at Upper Serangoon Road
  • Klins Dog Unit at Ulu Pandan Road
  • Bukit Timah Saddle Club at Bukit Timah
  • Colbar Eating House at Whitchurch Road
  • Serangoon Bus Interchange at Serangoon Road
  • Teo Seng Heng Provision Shop at West Coast Road
  • New Chay Hong Beauty Parlour at Lorong Lulian
  • Lo Song Leng Dentist at Balestier Road
  • Wong Yiu Nam Medical Hall at Chinatown
  • Shashlik Restaurant at Far East Shopping Center
  • Upper Seletar Reservoir at Upper Seletar
  • Kovan Coffeeshop at Simon Road
  • Thye Moh Chan Cake House at Geylang Road

Yet Con 2

About Old Places 《老地方》

Remembering forgotten places in Singapore through the eyes of ordinary people

Executive Producer: Royston Tan
Directors: Royston Tan, Eva Tang and Victric Thng
77 min / Documentary

“I want to archive these places before they are lost forever.” – Royston Tan


Old Places shows us the oft-forgotten yet almost immediately familiar areas in Singapore through the eyes of ordinary people. Prior to the production, members of the public were invited to call in to the radio to recount their significant memories of places in Singapore – places that will soon disappear or be redeveloped.

These personal stories come alive through the callers’ narration and the stunning visuals that capture the nostalgia and hidden beauty of the places. Re-discover Singapore and journey to places like a playground in Toa Payoh, a barbershop at Commonwealth Avenue, Capitol cinema, and an unassuming bakery in Whampoa.

Old Places celebrates personal stories of joy, love or loss, and weaves them into a tapestry of memories amounting to a collective and yet typical story of life in Singapore.

Old Places first screened on Okto on the eve of National Day 2010 where it recorded the highest ratings for any documentary screened that year, and received an overwhelming number of requests from the public for a repeat screening, which was subsequently arranged by Okto on 24 August.

Past screenings

Old Places was screened at the Esplanade from 13 July to 26 August 2012 in the Our Places, Our Stories exhibition.

It has also been shown once at the National Library, five times on television (even till now where they cut the film into 10-minute snippets), twice in schools for National Day Parade last year (once in SOTA and once in NTU), and had one community screening.

After the National Museum, it will next screen at a community museum in Taman Jurong in January 2013, organised by the National Heritage Board and the Singapore Art Museum.

Playground 1

Directors’ Bios

Royston Tan

A graduate from Temasek Polytechnic, Royston Tan’s films have screened worldwide at film festivals and received over 75 awards. He has made 4 feature length films and continues to work within the short film genre when the right idea comes along. Tan is one of the most influential filmmakers locally. In 2002, the National Arts Council honoured him with the Young Artist Award. In 2004, Time Magazine cited Tan as one of the ‘Top 20 Asian Heroes’. In 2010, Tan received the Singapore Youth Award, the highest youth accolade from the National Youth Council.

During his days as a student, Tan won the NTU All-School Students’ Photo-Videographic Competition: First prize for Music Video for Remains (1995) and the UTV International Book Prize for Adam.Eve.Steve (1997).

After graduation, Tan received the Best Short Film and Special Achievement Award for the short film Sons in 2000. In 2001, his short film Mother received the Voice Award at The Substation’s Singapore Short Film Festival. He has won two awards at Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival: the Canal+ Award 2005 for Cut and the Grand Prix for Monkey Love in 2007.

Tan remains one of the few filmmakers in Singapore who straddles both the commercial film world and the international film festival circuits. His film 881 grossed over S$3 millions, making it the top grossing Asian film in Singapore in 2007. In 2009, he was invited to be part of the Jury at the Shanghai International Film Festival.

Eva Tang

Born in Singapore, Eva Tang has lived and studied in Hong Kong, London and China. When she was offered a scholarship from the Singapore Film Commission, she resigned from her journalist job of 5 years and went to study film. Tang was the first Singaporean filmmaker who had her student short selected by the Venice Film Festival in 2002.

Eva is a MA (Directing) graduate of the National Film and Television School. Her student film Londres – London won the Governor Award of the Akira Kurosawa Memorial Short Film Competition. It also won Best Artistic Film in Shanghai, Jury Recommendation at the Hong Kong Independent Short Film & Video Awards, and was nominated for Best Short Film at Hawaii and Bangkok International Film Festivals. The National Gallery of Art (USA) also picked it up for screening. Her film, Solitary Moon was awarded the First Prize at The Great Gatsby Video Challenge, part of the Singapore Arts Festival 2010.

Eva was selected for the 2009 Berlinale Talent Campus, 2010 Torino FilmLab training and 2010 Taipei Golden Horse Film Academy led by Hou Hsiao-Hsien.

Victric Thng

Cited as “one of the new wave directors to look out for” by The Straits Times, Victric Thng’s filmmaking career started when he made a 3-minute short film, Locust (2003). The film won the Renault Samsung Prize in the Busan Asian Short Film Festival, Best Asean Short Film Silver Award at the Malaysian Video Awards and also screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Locust remains one of the festivals’ most highly requested films today. He has since made 11 other short films including more recently, The Mole (2007), which won first prize at the Panasonic-MDA Digital Film Fiesta 2007, and Twogether (2007), which screened at the 27th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival in 2009. In 2009, he executive produced the short film series Infinity which premiered at the 22nd Singapore International Film Festival. He was commissioned by the National Arts Council in 2009 and 2010 to direct a film under the dance/film programme, as part of the Singapore Arts Festival. A Day Without Wind, which was the dance film commissioned in 2009, travelled to the Asian Hot Shots Festival 2010 in Berlin, Germany.

He has been invited to jury regionally at festivals including in Macau and in Singapore, the 7th Fly By Night Video Challenge 2009. In 2009, John Badalu in Jakarta curated a retrospective of his works.

Sembawang Taxi 2

All photographs courtesy of Royston Tan

Introducing Bukit Brown Voices

21 05 2012

A trailer for a short independently-made documentary by Su-Mae Khoo & Brian McDairmant of Two Chiefs, BUKIT BROWN VOICES. The film tells the story of Singapore’s oldest Chinese cemetery, Bukit Brown Cemetery, on the cusp of major change. Filmed during what is the last Qing Ming (grave sweeping) festival for some families whose ancestors are buried in the cemetery, we hear their thoughts and memories about what the place and the customs they practise mean to them. Do drop by (click on the image) and let them know what you think :).