Hong Kong, ever eager to maintain its place as one of the most technologically and economically sophisticated places on the planet, rarely pauses to mourn the passing of its landmarks.
So news last week that the last icon of Hong Kong Island’s old entertainment district, the Queen’s Theater, is set to face the wrecking ball to make way for more shops and office space wasn’t likely to generate much backlash, if any. After all, locals barely reacted last year when the last specialty arthouse theater on the island, the Cine-Art in Wanchai, was forced to close due to soaring rent.
But the destruction of the Star Ferry Pier in Central to make way for a new road stirred genuine outrage, vigils and other examples of public disobedience. And demolition of the Queen’s Pier (no connection to the theater) continues to spark equally angry reactions, suggesting that Hong Kong’s wealthy inhabitants may be rediscovering a sense of their history.
And that’s something the Queen’s is steeped in.
The theater, which stands opposite the site of the old King’s Theater (now a shopping mall called the Entertainment Building), gave its name to the street it is on — Theater Lane — and was instrumental in popularizing Hong Kong movies in the 1960s and 1970s, notably those of the Shaw Bros. and Golden Harvest.
While managers of the theater envisage playing out with a swan song of local films, public reaction will determine how locals define “entertainment” — as shopping, or as cinema?