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Flag of SingaporeTian Yan theatre, 天演舞台
Da Hua theatre, 大华戏院

In 1928, another Singapore Chinatown icon appeared.

The Tian Yan theatre, 天演舞台, today’s Da Hua theatre, 大华戏院, was commissioned by Mr. Eu Tong Sen (余东璇, Yu Dong Xuan) and designed by architectural firm, Swan and Maclaren. It was located in between two other Chinatown landmarks, the Pearl Market and the Great Southern Hotel, 南天大酒楼.

Audiences often stop by Pearl Market for their favorite food before or after the movie. The Pearl Market was demolished in 1968 but the Great Southern still stands next to it. Mr. Eu Tong Sen had both buildings constructed and both have survived and transformed to meet modern needs.      

The founding story told of Mrs. Eu Tong Sen’s unhappy experience in a theatre. Most accounts mentioned that she was denied entry at a theatre. Because of her unhappiness, Mr. Eu Tong Sen built the Tian Yan theatre for his wife.

In 1928, Tian Yan theatre, 天演舞台, opened and offered Cantonese operas as well as the occasional silent movie. The original name of the theater can still be seen on the front as well as the side of the building.

In 1938, the Shaw Organization, a movie production company, rented Tian Yan Theatre and renamed it as the Empress Theatre, 皇后戏院. Shaw’s entry coincided with the Second Sino Japanese War in China. Overseas Chinese launched many programs to raise funds for China Relief Fund and Empress Theatre became a regular venue for fund raising performances.

China Relief Fund’s activities came to an end with the Japanese invasion of Singapore. By February 1942, the Japanese had occupied Singapore. Empress theatre was taken over by the Japanese and renamed Ta He Ju Chang 大和剧场. Chinese actress Li Xiang Lan’s, 李香兰, movies were screened at the Ta He theatre. Li Xiang Lan also known as Yoshiko Otaka, 大鷹淑子, and Shirley Yamaguchi was later accused of being a Japanese collaborator.

After the war, Shaw Organization bought the theater and renamed it The Majestic Da Hua theatre, 大华戏院, the name that continues to be used today. Mr. Eu Tong Sen’s gift to his wife has become a gift to the cultural landscape of Chinatown.

In 2003, Majestic Theatre was transformed from a theatre into a Mecca of Singapore’s favorite pastime – a shopping center. By the end of 2007, the shopping centre ceased operation. 

majestic theatreTian Yan theatre, 天演舞台
Da Hua theatre, 大华戏院

Address:
80 Eu Tong Sen Street
Singapore 059810
Singapore

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The Majestic, 2007
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Majestic theatre, next to the Great Southern Hotel
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Li Xiang Lan 李香兰majestic at night

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