After my 'waterfall lunch' at KL Sogo, I went for a self-conducted heritage tour of the neighbourhood. The first stop was Pawagam Odeon located diagonally from the shopping centre.
Built by the Cathay Organization in 1936, the Odeon Cinema was an expression of the links between the innovations of cinematography and Art Deco.
AO Coltman was the architect and Steen Sehested prepared the reinforced concrete design. The building featured new safety designs such as emergency lighting and fire prevention systems for the projector room. State-of-the-art ventilation grills and exhaust fans enhanced air circulation. The foyers were laid with locally produced rubber flooring.
There are strong Art Deco elements such as the lettering style of the cinema name, vertical pylons and flagpoles. Above the entrance, a horizontal beam, embellished with a mosaic depicting drama, comedy and music, intersects the strong vertical mullions. On the side façade, 'ribs' create a vertical rhythm.
Odeon Cinema operated as a movie theater until November 1997 and is now an arcade selling clothes, magazines, electronic goods and snacks.
I think the last paragraph is no longer correct. I saw a movie promo banner and that Pawagam Odeon now belongs to Pyramid Saimira, India's cinema powerhouse, so the cinema should still be operating.
I was in awe of this Art Deco structure. In its heyday, it screened foreign films unlike small cinemas like the Coliseum and was frequented by people from the Chinese, Malay and European communities. The biggest and most expensive Malay film in the early 80s - Bukit Kepong - was launched at the Odeon.
I think our old Singapore cinemas are not that fortunate, not in the movies they screened but their fate. I'm reminded of the Pavilion, another Art Deco theatre, in my recent posting. No doubt it would be an eyesore among the modern buildings; the behemoth taking up space that could be better utilised by raising up another Cineleisure.
An odeon "is a name for several ancient Greek and Roman buildings built for singing exercises, musical shows and poetry competitions" (source), a befitting name for a theatre. Little wonder there are so many odeons around the world. In Singapore I remember Odeon and Odeon-Katong. The last time I checked, Malaysia had four odeons. Perhaps not coincidentally, Odeon Theatre (Singapore) and Odeon Theatre (Kuala Lumpur) were both built by Cathay Organization.