Sunday, December 30, 2012

Yaumatei Theatre 油麻地戲院

My impression of Yaumatei Theater started in the 70s and 80s in Hong Kong. It is only the outlook of the cinema building that I had seen while passing by bus. I have never been there watching movie until this December that I have the chance to join the guided tour of the Theater. I have a deeper understanding of the history and its transformation to a modern performing theater.

Yaumatei Theatre was built in 1930 and its inaugural opening was on 14 June of the same year, providing the residents with the only venue for movies, kung fu and dancing performance. It is the only surviving pre-war cinema building in the urban area in Hong Kong. In the 90s, televisions and internet were so common and popular in most families that the outdated operation of Yaumatei Theater could not meet the rapid change and high demand of the community, eventually causing the close-down of the Theater on 31st July 1998 due to its rapid profit loss. It was accorded a Grade 2 status by the Antiquities Advisory Board in the same year.  Yaumatei Theater has both "classicism" and "ornamental art". The most outstanding feature is the two pillars  each crafted with both happy and crying masks at the main entrance . The arch door on the stage is also eye-catching. The building was made of materials mostly wood, granite and bricks. The roof has steel arch cover and wooden ridge-poles.

Red Brick Building adjacent to Yaumatei Theatre is a classical British industrial building of over 100 years old which is the only remaining portion of the former Yaumatei Water Plant. Its architecture is full of pragmatism. Its building materials are much stronger and durable than those used for the Theatre. It used the local made red mortar and red bricks specially for constructional purpose. The Red Brick Building retained for its antiquity value is now the administration office and function venue of  Yaumatei Theater. It was accorded as Grade 1 status by the Antiquities Advisory Board in 2000. Both the Theater and the Red Brick Building had the inaugural opening on 17th July 2012, providing cultural and recreational activities in the community. Now the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong has taken up the role of passing on the invaluable Chinese art form and cultural heritage of the Staging Cantonese Opera to the younger generation of Cantonese opera artists in this local heritage site, Yaumatei Theater. During the guided tour, many archive photos were displayed and let the audience have a better understanding of the important value of retaining the historical and architectural sites in Hong Kong.

(Photo courtesy of the Antiquities and Monuments Office / Leisure and Cultural Services Department)

Photo equipment:
Nikon D300s, Nikon GP-1 GPS
AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED
Ricoh Digital GR3 28mm f/1.9 (skew mode: for capturing displayed archive photos)
645 PRO for iPhone 5





(鳴謝:  古物古蹟辦事處 / 康樂及文化事務處)

Yaumatei Theater 油麻地戲院

An aerial view of Yaumatei, c.1947. The white building at the centre was Yaumatei Theatre. (archive photo)
Nikon D300s, 17-55mm f/2.8 @55mm, f/2.8, 1/60sec, ISO 1000

Yaumatei Theatre, c.1983 (archive photo)
Ricoh Digital GR3, 28mm, f/1.9 @6mm, f/1.9, 1/20sec, ISO 200 (skew mode)

Yaumatei Theatre, c.2003 (archive photo)
Ricoh Digital GR3, 28mm, f/1.9 @6mm, f/1.9, 1/25sec, ISO 200 (skew mode)

When the construction workers demolished the red brick wall of the main entrance, they found two stone pillars crafted with masks of crying and happy faces.
Nikon D300s, 17-55mm f/2.8 @17mm, f/5.0, 1/30sec, ISO 200

The old buildings facing Yaumatei Theatre
Nikon D300s, 17-55mm f/2.8 @17mm, f/2.8, 1/3200sec, ISO 1600

Looking outside of the main entrance
Nikon D300s, 17-55mm f/2.8 @17mm, f/2.8, 1/3200sec, ISO 1600

An arch door was found when the movie screen was pulled down.
645 PRO for iPhone @4mm, f/2.4, 1/15sec, ISO 500 (6 x 17)

Looking down from the stage
645 PRO for iPhone @4mm, f/2.4, 1/15sec, ISO 800 (6 x 17)

Seats of musicians
Nikon D300s, 17-55mm f/2.8 @17mm, f/2.8, 1/30sec, ISO 640

Red Brick Building  紅磚屋

The first building of Yaumatei Water Plant was refurnished to become a post office in the 60s.  The Red Brick Building is on the right. (photo courtesy of the Antiquities and Monuments Office)
645 PRO for iPhone @4.1mm, f/2.4, 1/15sec, ISO 800

The present outlook of the Red Brick Building
Nikon D300s, 17-55mm f/2.8 @17mm, f/5.0, 1/250sec, ISO 200

Pitched roof of double layer Chinese clay tiles (archive photo)
Ricoh Digital GR3, 28mm, f/1.9 @6mm, f/1.9, 1/35sec, ISO 200 (skew mode)

The wooden blind of the window
Nikon D300s, 17-55mm f/2.8 @48mm, f/5.0, 1/100sec, ISO 200

Red brick facade (archive photo)
Ricoh Digital GR3, 28mm, f/1.9 @6mm, f/1.9, 1/30sec, ISO 200 (skew mode)

Outside view of the arched verandah
Nikon D300s, 17-55mm f/2.8 @18mm, f/5.0, 1/500sec, ISO 200

Over more than a hundred years, these red bricks are still strong and durable and display their fresh and new look again after the reconstruction process.
Nikon D300s, 17-55mm f/2.8 @38mm, f/5.0, 1/250sec, ISO 200

A building having such a long history with unique architectural value worth a detailed gaze
Nikon D300s, 17-55mm f/2.8 @22mm, f/5.0, 1/60sec, ISO 200

Click to open more photos 點擊更多照片》

Related post "Capturing displayed photos“ 相關帖子「 拍攝展覽照片」》


  1. I resided in a condo across the theatre in the 90's when I was visiting HK. It was a rundown place back then. I'm very happy to see its thoughtful retoration.

  2. Very nice pictures. Thanks.

  3. I have learned a lot about Yamati Theatre!

  4. My name is Yana.
    I am a student of Hong Kong PolyU.
    I am working on a project with Yau Ma Tei Theatre now, can I use your article and pictures as reference?

    1. Hi Yana, Yes, you can. Wishing you all the success in your project.

    2. Thank you very much!!!

    3. Hi Yana: In case you need further information, please let me know via email.

  5. Hi Peter, Where can I find your email adress?
    I really want to know what is the 'Social value and local interest' of the theatre. Also I would like to know more about the architecture of this theatre.
    Thank you very much again for your help.

    1. Hi Yana, In order to prevent spam and to protect visitor's privacy and email information, I have not put my email here but would like the visitor to use the email form (Contact Me) on the left of this homepage to contact me first. Your group partner Scarlet already did so and received my email for further communication. Thanks.

    2. Hi Yana, the following is only my personal observation of Yaumatei Theatre in the context of social values:
      1. it is a venue for "collaboration in creativity"
      2. our experience in theatre's power
      3. the audience and the performance work together to form a "creative bond"
      4. it is a "social force", an influencer and reflector of social values.
      5. it is a "personal force": personal commitment, teamwork, community new endeavor, personal satisfaction, self-direction and interpersonal skills etc.
      6. it is a combination of many "art forms"

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Nice photos, can I use them for my project:) ?

  8. Hi Peter, how did you get the old achive photos? From AMO? Or LCSD?

    1. These old archive photos were either displayed in the theatre or presented during the guide tour. Permission was given by the guide staff to capture these photographs right on the spot. Therefore names of AMO and LCSD were acknowledged as courtesy.