Cineplexes used to be cinemas; single detached buildings, normally doubled storied with a surrounding car park with a bicycle/motorcycle park on one side of the building while the other side would lined with a row of tidbit stalls. Exit doors opened directly into the car park and dating couples would surely booked the choice circle seats located on the first floor. Ushers with torch lights would lead you to the seats and toilets were conveniently located inside the cinema.
Back in my hometown in Seremban, Shaw Brothers and Cathay Organisation were the main cinema operators. The Cathay Organisation owned Odeon and Ruby cinemas while Rex and Capitol belonged to the Shaw Brothers. Tickets back were priced; RM 2.00 for circle seats, RM 1.40 for first class, RM 1.00 for second class and RM 0.65 for third class. Movies on Sunday mornings at 11.00 am were cheaper and offered as cheap matinée. There were also other independent cinema operators who managed Plaza, Metropole and Golden City. Seats for the circle and first classes were cushioned while the second class and the third class were wooden seats. Tickets for Plaza and Golden City priced lower going for only RM 0.40 per ticket because they did not have any air condition. Golden City was known for its tidbit shop inside the cinema and also for its rats running in the dark, in between your feet.
The fun side in going to the cinemas was that you could bring almost anything you want to munch. Kuaci (melon seeds), dried sotong (squid) and Wrigleys were the favoured tidbits. Ramlys and KFCs were good for the lunch screenings at 1.00 pm. Fruits were also popular. It was the days of family entertainment where half of the patrons were whole families enjoying quality time together. I remember my mum and dad will take me out for a moive once a month and it was the thing that any kid would look forward to. The cinemas were afforable, about the cost of a plate of chau keow teow and cheaper than the rental of a VHS tape. Cineplexes today would set the family back much more and buying DVDs makes more economic sense.
Cinemas were so different from cineplexes today. While cineplexes offers comfort and efficiency, they lacked the majesty, the atmosphere and the ambience of the heydays of the cinemas. Crowds would queue for hours for Bruce Lee movies or for blockbusters like Ben Hur, Earthquake, Towering Inferno, Star Wars or Bobby. Movies like Avatar or Lord of the Rings may be hits today but with the vast numbers of cineplexes, the crowd is dispersed into mini cinemas and the atmosphere is lost. In the days of the cinemas, they would be blockbusters running for months. The queue, the crowd, the fans would be locked in a giant fiesta and the excitement of watching the blockbusters would be magnified three folds. Watching such hits in a cineplex is such a sterile affair. You come out with a good feeling of watching a good movie, full stop.
In the old good days of cinemas, you would come out of the cinema, wanting to return and watch the movie again and again.
Cinemas are all gone now.
Gone with the cinema, is an entertainment outlet for the masses.
Gone are the blockbuster days.
Gone are the quality family time of watching a good movie together.