Entertaining the community in a Majestic way

 |Nov 23, 2016
Restored and refurbished Majestic Theatre in George Town … Pix Doris Lim.
Restored and refurbished Majestic Theatre in George Town … Pix Doris Lim.

Philanthropist Khoo Sian Ewe (1886-1964), built the historic Majestic Theatre in George Town, Penang in 1929.

Straits-Chinese architect, Chew Eng Eam designed the en bloc development of the theatre and 12 shop houses along Jalan Phee Choon.

The Loke Thye Kee Restaurant at the Jalan Burmah junction was also built by Khoo.

The Majestic Theatre, formerly known as the Shanghai Sound Theatre, was originally designed as a live performance theatre.

It was the first cinema in Penang to screen Chinese talkies.

The Majestic Theatre was a popular movie spot and packed with crowds over the weekend.

It was not unusual back then to have movie buffs from the northern state travel to Penang to watch movies over the weekend.

In those days, hawker stalls would line the narrow lane selling snacks from fresh cut fruit to grilled chicken’s bishop’s nose on sticks!

Old cinemas like Majestic soon became obsolete as new cinema chains and shopping malls drew the crowds away.

Eventually the Majestic closed in 1990s.

Many other old cinemas have has been converted into restaurants, supermarkets, church or even furniture shops!

The Majestic building’s owner, 1919 Global’s Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Foo, said the restored and rejuvenated Majestic Theatre will be re-adapted for entertainment and F&B functions.

Guests will be able to experience the golden era of Asian cinema.

Foo said that care was taken to replicate and restore the building to its original structure based on old photographs of it, taken in the 1960s.

Foo, who is Singaporean, grew up eating Penang food; as a child loved to listen stories of from his mother, a Penangite.

His affinity and love for Penang was a reason he and his family have moved to here.

The Loke Thye Kee Restaurant which was restored earlier was used as a film set for “You Mean the World to Me” movie shot on location recently.

The restoration of both iconic building was a challenging and fulfilling project for Foo.

He said that the group is still looking at other possible investments in Penang.

As part of the 1919 Global’s CSR project, the ‘Majestic Revival Community Film Screening’ is a way of linking the past and present. Several old movies are selected for the screening which is open to the public.

Tickets will cost RM1 per movie (to reflect old cinema prices) and is free for students and senior over 65 years old.

Senior movie goers waiting for the premier screening of 1963’s “Songfest” at the refurbished Majestic Theatre in George Town ... Pix Doris Lim.
Senior movie goers waiting for the premier screening of 1963’s “Songfest” at the refurbished Majestic Theatre in George Town … Pix Doris Lim.

The first screening with was an Eastmancolor-Shawscope 1963 costume musical, “Songfest”.

This operetta was shot on location at Taiwan’s beautiful Sun-Moon Lake.

Songfest is at its heart, a wonderful yet turbulent love story between a beautiful tea picker and a handsome fisherman.

Invited senior guests from two homes, the Penang Home for the Infirm and Aged, and Silver Jubilee Home for the Aged, and lay public enjoyed themselves during the premier screening.

Several guests were surprised that the movie tickets cost RM1 and asked a few times if it was applicable for all movie screenings.

The other Chinese classics to be screened are “The Love Eterne” a musical film adaptation of the Chinese story “Butterfly Lovers”, a doomed romance between a cross-dressed female who fell in love with her male classmate.

“The 36th Chamber of Shaolin” is a 1978 Shaw Brothers kung fu film and “The Journey” was the highest grossing Malaysian Chinese film in 2014 which won several awards in 27th Malaysian Film Festival.

Two Malay films “Hoore Hoore” (2012) and “Apa Kata Hati” (2008) completed the line-up for the ‘Majestic Revival Community Film Screening’ during the monthly screening on the third weekends in November, December and January 2017.


Doris Lim is a Malaysia Outlook contributor with a keen eye for details developed form her background in architecture and design. Her affable personality and passion to celebrate life is captured in her stories of the community. Doris’ love for all things beautiful and quirky is tempered by her love for writing, photography, food, art and travel.