July 22, 2018
| On 3 weeks ago

Rex Cinemas: Watch A Film At The Last Standing Remnants Of A Bollywood Legacy In Singapore

By Weijie Tan

With big-name cinema houses such as Shaw, Cathay and Golden Village dominating Singapore’s movie industry, many of us tend to miss out on the smaller theatres like The Projector and Rex Cinemas.

The Projector is relatively new, targeting film buffs and indie film fanatics. It has remained popular among the younger crowd; especially with Singapore’s burgeoning arts scene. Rex Cinemas on the other hand, caters to the local and migrant Indians, as it’s the main venue for them to catch Bollywood movies.

The Mackenzie outlet holds memories dating as far back as 1964. Starting off as a cinema, it transformed into a concert venue, then an ice skating rink, church, disco and back into a cinema. With such a rich history, I was hoping I could head down for some insight, and maybe fulfil my fantasy of exploring the late Yangtze Cinema.

However, when I arrived, the building was in the early stages of getting torn down to make way for the Thomson East Coast line. Just like that, my dreams were crushed.

Turns out this cinema chain started up again in 2009, and expanded into two more branches at Golden Mile Tower and Shaw Tower. Although the main building that holds most of Rex Cinemas’ history is getting demolished, I believe that memories from patrons will still keep its legacy alive.

A fellow local film buff, Vignesh, who caught a movie at the Golden Mile Towers outlet at 3pm on a Thursday afternoon explained that majority of the viewers are usually Indian nationals who are seeking a source of relief from a long week of work.

“Although the audiences may turn out unexpectedly noisy from whistling and cheering when their favourite actors come on, I’m okay with that. Because sometimes I do it with my friends for the fun of it!”

Cut-out of Rajinikanth

This phenomenon was further supported by the representative of Rex Cinemas who told me all Rajinikanth movies will usually lead to a full house on an opening day. Once, they even had to set up barricades for the crowd when Rajinikanth actually came down to the cinema.

This may seem unconventional for the other mainstream theatres where silence is expected out of courtesy for others. And it may turn out to be a terrible experience for some who are looking to enjoy the film without audience interference.

I see it as a sense of camaraderie amongst like-minded people though, and the feeling of cheering with your fellow audiences gives you a true Rex Cinemas experience.

As much as I’d love to see the gregariousness amongst the Indians, my friend presented a more unsightly perspective.

Having visited the Mackenzie branch only once in his life, he described it as a “mecca for migrant workers” and also rather bluntly as “a gathering point for degenerates”.

With a profound distaste for the rowdy and unruly crowd, the way he spoke made me realise that the unspoken Indian caste system still exists, despite Singapore’s push for racial harmony. But thankfully, this hostility isn’t too widespread.

When I asked the representative of Rex Cinemas who their target audience is, he told me that it’s simply the audience themselves. This may sound confusing, but what he meant was that there’s no specific group of people that they’re targeting. Instead, everyone is welcome to enjoy the films.

In fact, there are quite a few business executives who come down in the afternoons, proving that such a place isn’t just meant for “degenerates” and migrant workers.

I decided to catch a Bollywood film for the first time in my life, to see how true these anecdotes were. It was terribly tragic that I found myself watching a really low-budget film instead of one of the popular Bollywood movies. So don’t take my experience as one that’s representative of all Bollywood movies.

In the 900-seater theatre, there were only five, including me, in the audience; perfect for those seeking an escape from the busy afternoon hustle. There was a middle-aged couple and a pair of working adult men in formal attire.

It was a pity I couldn’t join in the loud cheers and roars of delight like I’d expected, but that silence was broken by the heavy beats when the actors broke out into a dance in the middle of the show. Although there were lovey-dovey vibes, the protagonist also attacked passengers of the GoCar (local version of Grab).

During one of the attacks, the protagonist rapes one of his victims in the GoCar, but the police officer deemed it a mere ‘misbehaviour’ which left me in a state of shock. The fact that rape was being downplayed to such an extent made me wonder how seriously the writers/producers in the industry viewed such a crime.

Do Bollywood movies actually have an influence over the rape culture in India? I hope it was just a mistake on the subtitle writer’s/translator’s part.

Just as the movie got predictable, there was an intermission in the midst of it. Unlike theatre and musical performances, this intermission was filled with (non-local) advertisements without English subtitles. I decided that Bollywood movies aren’t meant for me.

If you’re thinking of getting an insight into the Indian community or if you want to prove that Bollywood movies are better than I thought, head down to Rex Cinemas for a different kind of movie experience!

Prices: S$10 on weekdays, S$12 on weekends

Rex Cinemas: 6001 Beach Rd, Golden Mile Tower, Singapore 199589 | Opening Hours: 11am – 10pm | Website | Facebook

Weijie Tan

Wei Jie is a hipster wannabe. He thinks that people who go to museums just to take photos for Instagram are really pretentious and mainstream; thus scavenging for the alternative places/ vintage clothing is his thing.