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The ‘Grand Ã‡inema’ has been noted for being the first in Shanghai in several aspects:
– the first big luxury cinema in Shanghai
– the first one to introduce wide screen projection
– the first one to introduce surround tone
– the first one to officially achieve ‘4 star'status, according to the municipal cinema ranking system
After the renovation in 1992, it now has 1554 seats in the categories single, double and VIP double.
Sorry, the splitting was done in 2003, not in 2005.
The Cathay cinema was built during 1930 and 1931, and opened on January 1, 1932, with an american movie called ‘Free Soul’. Until 1949 it played mainly English and American Films, using Chinese subtitles and earphones for spoken translation to Chinese. The original technical outfit from the US (‘Simplex’?) was used until 1964.
Originally the Cathay had 1080 seats, placed in ca. 30 rows in a flat, rectangle hall without balcony. Ceiling structure and lights were squares – I don’t remember to spot anything round in that room. In the early ninetees it looked as if nothing had changed for 60 years; only seating had been reduced to 978.
In 1986, 1997 and 1999 there was an upgrade of the speaker system, the last one adding surround sound and DTS, earning the Cathay an official ‘four star’ cinema status.
A remarkable oddity of the Cathay is the entrance opening to the center of the intersection of Huai Hai Lu and Mao Ming Lu – it made some headlines in architectural magazines of the thirties. Maybe this contributed to its municipal preservation status in the early nineties – which apparently only applied to the outside of the building, as its protected status did not prevent the splitting of the screening hall: The original one was cut into three smaller rooms, which reopened on June 28, 2005, with 225, 236 and 123 seats. The new floor plans look quite unattractive, with long and narrow screening tubes. No trace of the original decoration remains visible.
An interesting old tourist guide book from Shanghai (http://www.talesofoldchina.com/library/allaboutshanghai/t-all08.htm) from 1934, does not list the Paramount as cinema:
For its theatrical entertainment Shanghai is largely dependent on motion pictures and there are a number of first class cinema houses showing the best of the American, British, German, French and Chinese productions. They are all equipped for sound.
Excellent stage plays are produced at frequent intervals by local associations of amateurs, and touring companies are occasionally here for limited engagements. But in the main going to the theatre in Shanghai means going to the "talkies."
Among the first class cinemas are:
Carlton – 2 Park Road
Cathay – 868 Avenue Joffre
Embassy – 742 Bubbling Well Road
Grand – 216 Bubbling Well Road
Lyceum – Rtes. Bourgeat and Cardinal Mercier
Metropol – 500 Thibet Road
Nanking – 523 Avenue Edward VII
Strand – 586 Ningpo Road”
In 1995, there was a small cinema in the Paramount building, with ca. 300 seats. It was rather modern and seemed to have been added to the building just recently. It did not survive a long time. Now the Paramount building contains a large dancing hall and a club room.
Architects were Zhao Shen and Fan Wenxhao. The first movie in 1930 was ‘Broadway’. In 1950 it was renamed to ‘Beijing Cinema" and in 1959 it became a concert hall and home of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. In this function, capacity is reported as 1122 seats. Acoustics were excellent, but the noise from nearby heavy-traffic roads became more and more disturbing. So the whole theatre was moved over 66 m to the side in a 6 m USD preservation effort and stands now surrounded by lawns and trees. Here a link to an interesting description of this unique undertaking.
Here a link to a short history of this outstanding theatre and to ancient photos of the stunning exterior and interior. http://www.gruenewald.gmxhome.de/