In the last year or so I have found and explored numerous abandoned movie theaters in Taiwan 台灣. It all started when I stumbled upon Datong Theater 大同戲院 down in Taitung City 台東市 last June. Since then I have learned much more about the Taiwanese cinema industry: how many theaters are likely to be found in a city of a given size, where they are likely to be found, when they were likely to have been abandoned, and so on. Not long after moving to Zhōnglì 中壢 a few months ago I put this growing awareness to the test by cycling around town one morning, finding several theaters new to me within close proximity to one another. One of these, Xīnmíng Theater 新明戲院, is the subject of this post. Public records indicate it was in operation from around 1980 to 1997. It is not the most impressive theater I have explored—but I aim to be thorough in blogging about the many abandonments of Taiwan so here it is!
One of the most interesting features of Xinming Theater is the many signs that can be found on all sides of the building. I have not been able to puzzle out the circular glyph at the very top of the building but the name of the theater can be discerned in salmon-coloured characters below. The faint outlines of an LED sign can also be seen at right angles from the corner of the building. Head around the side and you’ll also find a tile rendition of the name as well as the remains of a plastic signboard below (not pictured in this post—I don’t like to give absolutely everything away).
Accessing this theater is a snap, unlike most of the others I found in Zhongli1. Most of the street-facing shops on the ground floor are still in business, which is fairly common for abandoned commercial buildings in Taiwan 台灣 (see, for instance, the Qiaoyou Building, the Qianyue Building, or the Fuyou Building, all of which are still home to active businesses at street level). This is both a blessing and a curse, for the place has been stripped clean of artifacts—and much of the interior has been converted into storage or a dumping ground for the shops below.
Inside the theater itself nothing remains: no projectors, film cases, seats, a screen, tickets, or much of anything else to identify this as a place where thousands once reclined in darkness, popcorn and other snacks in hand, to transport themselves into the many worlds of the imagination. Only the terraced concrete and elevated stage provide clues as to the former use of this neglected space.
Apart from the main theater there isn’t too much else to see apart from broken washroom stalls and a curiously empty chamber on the top floor. I wasn’t able to find out much about this place on the Chinese language internet—probably because it isn’t a particularly interesting ruin—but I noticed a passing reference to a skating arena in the area. Might this have been it?
Most amusingly, the best 24-hour restaurant in Zhōnglì 中壢 can be found at the base of the old theater. Yǒngchuān Beef Noodles 永川牛肉麵 offers an expansive selection of delicious soup and dumpling dishes to be enjoyed within the crumbling ruins of Xinming Theater. Only in Taiwan!
- A city the size of Zhōnglì 中壢 was once home to about a dozen movie theaters before the advent of home video. I have already posted something about the building that once housed Cáishén Theater 財神戲院 and will at some point share my full exploration of the amazing Dàdōng Theater 大東戲院. For anyone curious to make their own contribution to the literature here are a few more theaters to look into: 裕國戲院, 銀宮戲院, 國際戲院, 遠東戲院, 金府戲院, 賓賓戲院, 親親來來戲院 (this last one being another that I wasn’t able to access). Interestingly, one of Zhongli’s old theaters is still in business—for more about that check out my write-up about Zhongyuan Grand Theater! ↩