Fēngzhōng Theater 豐中戲院 is one of many abandoned theaters in downtown Taichung 台中. Located a stone’s throw away from Taichung Station, this theater was originally the Taiwan Opera Theater 台灣歌劇戲院, a performance venue founded at the very end of Japanese colonial rule in 1944. According to this source the name was changed to Fengzhong Theater when it was converted for use as a cinema in 1953. It was in continuous operation until 2004 when it was closed and abandoned.
Given its historic status I already knew of Fengzhong Theater when I passed through the area late one night last month. I only meant to stop by and take a few photos of the exterior but after noticing an opening I stepped inside to take a quick look. I was there for ten minutes at most and did not bring proper lighting or equipment for a full exploration—but since there is considerable public interest in this particular theater I figure I may as well publish some preliminary findings.
This theater, like many others of its vintage, was once home to a single screen and a huge auditorium. When the cinema industry began to falter in the 1990s it was common practice to subdivide old school theaters into multiple rooms to increase revenue. Often these renovations produced awkward results, with theaters perpendicular to one another in order to accommodate additional screens and projection rooms where only one existed in the past. I’m not entirely certain this is what happened here—but the theater has obviously been renovated since opening in the 1940s and the layout is somewhat peculiar. Access to the second projection room is actually through a balcony running along the outside of the building.
Although the seating areas and screens remain in decent condition most of the building has been picked clean of interesting artifacts and trashed. Plenty of rubbish has been dumped inside, which is rather gross. Squeezing inside reminded me of the garbage compactor scene in Star Wars: A New Hope. I don’t envy whomever was sitting next to me on the train not long thereafter. All in a day’s work!
Months later I happened to be in the area so I returned to capture a few more shots of the exterior by day. This post has now been updated to include a few of these, among them a photo of the ticket booth with several more movie posters. One of those posters is for Wolf Girl and the other for what I would assume is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, both of which were released in 2001. This would suggest that the theater was abandoned a few years earlier than previously thought.
If you’re interested in other abandoned places in the area you absolutely must check out Qianyue Building 千越大樓 and the even older Tianwaitian Theater 天外天劇場 on the other side of the tracks. For more explorations of abandoned cinemas in Taiwan check out my write-ups of Datong Theater 大同戲院, Xinming Theater 新明戲院, and the Douliumen Building 斗六門大樓.