Guanmiao Zhongyang Theater 關廟中央戲院

An abandoned cinema in Guanmiao
An abandoned cinema in Guanmiao, Tainan.

Decades ago Taiwan was home to more than 800 movie theaters. Nowadays there are approximately 150, most of them large-scale, modern multiplexes, with only a handful of vintage cinemas like Chin Men Theater 全美戲院 still in business. With more than 500 closures it should come as no surprise that abandoned cinemas are readily found in most urban centers across the nation.

I spotted this particular cinema, Zhōngyāng Theater 中央戲院, in Guānmiào 關廟, a small town in eastern Tainan 台南. It reminded me a lot of the old theater I found near my home in Wénshān District 文山區 not long after moving there. The design is more or less the same: metal-shuttered market shops on the ground floor and theaters on the second and third. I went to take a closer look but found that the dark, musty corridors of the old building were still occupied by old people (squatters, homeless, or merely the unfortunate, I don’t know). Not wanting to disturb anyone with my curiosity (and given that I had a schedule to keep) I did not investigate any further. If you’re curious, I found a video tour of the old theater online (in Chinese, of course).