The Projector - cinema history

The Projector - cinema history

Singapore's newest cultural icon is tucked away inside a shabby shopping mall on Beach Road. Take the lift up to the fifth floor of the Golden Mile Tower, and you'll step into a secret arthouse paradise, where you're greeted by a low-key bar area well stocked with popcorn, snacks, top-notch coffee and local craft beers. Head through one of the two innocuous doors and you'll find yourself in their retro screening rooms, a unique throwback to the cinemas of yesteryear, with rows of blue flip-up chairs with wooden armrests still intact.

Back in the 70s, the Golden Theatre was the biggest cinema in Singapore and showed all the latest releases, but it eventually lost out to competitors, sliding into Bollywood and adult film screenings in the 90s before shutting down its operations for a short time. Preserved within though, the screens still retained their vintage features, and in a world of identikit Golden Villages, this became its unique selling point. In 2014, the old Golden Theatre opened its doors again, reinvented this time, as The Projector - Singapore's first independent cinema - this time showing the best and most diverse indie, foreign and cult favourite films, classics, arthouse, horror, local flicks, retrospectives and hosting a multitude of special themed nights.

Created via an Indiegogo campaign, masterminds Karen and Sharon Tan and Blaise Trigg-Smith were running the design consultancy and management company Pocket Projects when the opportunity arose to take over the cinema. Already specialising in breathing new life into old, derelict and historic spaces, the trio turned their experience onto the iconic movie theatre, and after struggling to find a cinema operator to inhabit the space, simply decided to do the job themselves. After partnering with design practice FARM, they used their crowdfunding campaign to carry out basic renovations and purchase two brand new digital projectors.

The cinema has three themed screening rooms. The first, the 230-seat Green Room is the main screening room, and the neighbouring screen Redrum (referencing The Shining, but pronounced Red Room) includes a stage, bean bag seating and is the go-to space for cultural events and alternative performances. The third dedicated screening room Blue Room, opened in late 2017 and focuses on cinema screenings, taking its name from the Instagram-friendly rows of blue seating inside.

But what makes The Projector such a cultural gem isn't the quirky interior or nostalgic atmosphere. It's the timetable. The Projector's listings are totally unique. From cult classics like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and so-bad-it's-good movie The Room, to the latest acclaimed indie flicks like Beautiful Boy and The Travelling Cat Chronicles, the selection is the result of a careful curatorial process. Creative and marketing brain Jerome Chee has a painstakingly careful approach to acquiring films, which is more than visible with a glance down their listings.

Local film consultancy Luna Films also works in partnership with The Projector on the programming, and is partly responsible for the brave film choices they are known for. Often, the cinema is faced with issues from international distributors who are often difficult about releasing their film in just one cinema in Singapore. Despite this, The Projector has become home to some of the numerous annual film festivals held in Singapore, from the German Film Festival held in partnership with the Goethe Institut, to smaller, ground roots festivals like The Freedom Festival, which focuses on human rights films and documentaries.

Conceived as more of a cultural space then simply a cinema, The Projector has also played host to multiple film festivals, launches and premieres, as well as music events and gigs in their atmospheric screening rooms. The lobby area is also home to Clockwork, a co-working space that inhabits the space during the day. The inviting cinema cafe and versatility of the space - with its lo-fi lobby area and outdoor car park, which often doubles as an outdoor bar and event space (and has a killer view of the Kallang area) - means The Projector can play multiple roles.

There's no doubt The Projector is one of the best cinemas in Singapore, if not in Asia, and with its continually evolving use of the space and its creative film and event programming, its success is bound to continue.