Penang cinema halls erased, memory remains

In 1972, Royal screened the Hindi blockbuster ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ (Elephant My Friend) for six months running to full house.

Till now a family , ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ the only box office hit with a silver jubilee run of 175 days in Penang.

As teary-eyed children growing up in that era we could not tolerate the harshness towards the lovable elephants and hated the fact that the hero was forced to choose between the elephant he loved and his jealous wife.

To this day, many Malaysians could continue fondly the movie’s lead song when the tune is played and sing, “Chal chal mere haathi…” by rote without knowing a single Hindi word!

Catching a blockbuster movie was a real treat in the 1960s, 70s right up to the 80s in Penang, especially in George Town City.

Movies perhaps were the best and affordable entertainment treat then for families, couples, and even school pupils, who would catch up an afternoon matinee after school.

Life was simpler and cheaper back then.

For a mere 40 cents, we could escape into a make believe world, sitting front rows; with the screen literally in our faces.

As students, we could only afford the cheap tickets; and would steal to the empty seats in the first class rows about 20 minutes into the show.

That’s when the torch light wielding uncles (cinema hall attendants) go for their short breaks.

Back then, there were separate queues for men and women to purchase tickets.

Tickets were drawn from perforated booklets and a tailor’s dual colour pencil was used to mark out seats sold on a sheet of the cinema’s floor plan.

Blue ticks for men and red for women!

If you’re a single woman watching a movie alone, have no fear, the ticket seller would allocate a single seat just for you.

There were two such seats between the pillar and the aisle in then the Cathay cinema hall.

Such was an era for modesty.

Read more here

An excerpt from online Malaysia Outlook

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