Xīluó 西螺 is justifiably famous for its eponymous Japanese colonial era theater, located close to the architectural wonders of Yánpíng Old Street 延平老街, but this small town on the south bank of the sluggish Zhuóshuǐ River 濁水溪 was once home to two more theaters. Almost no mention of these other theaters can be found except in this news report about a local painter—but while browsing around satellite view on Google Maps I managed to locate what is almost certainly Yuǎndōng Theater 遠東戲院 (literally “Far East Theater”). A few months ago I seized an opportunity to revisit the lovely town of Xīluó 西螺 and dropped in to take a closer look.
Identifying this as Yuandong Theater was not entirely straight-forward. Most of the characters on the facade have broken off, introducing some ambiguity into the process. A detailed examination of the metal brackets that once secured the mystery characters provided the crucial clue. According to both sources cited above the third theater in town was named Yīshēng Theater 一生戲院. The bracketing and presumably corroded residue on the front of this building suggest a full-size character—and by a process of elimination that would make this the old Yuandong Theater.
Without any business records to consult I am left guessing about when this theater was built and later abandoned. I’d guess this theater dates back to the 1960s or 1970s and probably went out of business in the 1990s like many other standalone theaters in central Taiwan. Evidently it was converted for use as a gambling den or seedy karaoke bar at some point, for the interior has been renovated to remove all traces of the projection room, ticket booth, and other fixtures of movie theater design. I wandered around inside for a little while but there was nothing to see—it is merely a dark and hollow shell, easily accessible but not at all interesting. Well, they can’t all be cool, but this one is on the rental market. Anyone fancy a use for this ugly old theater in Xiluo?