Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Old Cinemas Of Pasir Mas

I have posted the same article (Malay Version) in My Pasir Mas but for the benefit of those who don't understand Malay, here is the same post with some pictures.
The first cinema was located at Pengkalan Pasir about 2 kilometers from the Pasir Mas town centre. The cinema was known by the locals as Panggung Buruk (Old Theatre). The name was appropriate as it was really a wooden hall with wooden cinema seats laid on the earthen floor. They were proper chairs not the plank kind often used for wayang kulit shows.
It was at this Panggung Buruk that I saw my first movie in the cinemas of Pasir Mas. My half brother took me there on his bicycle with me sitting on the round top bar of the frame all the way from Kampung Kangkung about 6 miles away. The pain from sitting on the small bar was overshadowed by the exuberance of seeing a movie in town.
The movie was the classic 'Semerah Padi' with the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee and Saadiah playing the leading roles. The show was an afternoon show and I distinctly remember coming out from the theatre at the end of the show not being able to immediately adjust to the bright light outside. The pupils of my eyes were still dilated.
I didn't have the chance to see a second movie at Panggung Buruk as a new and better Panggung Rex was later built right smack in town and Panggung Buruk ceased to function though the builing was still there. On this site now stands a furniture shop owned by my classmate by the name of Lee Kew Pee.
I can't really remember how old I was they came to the school in Kampung Kangkung selling special tickets for school children to see a movie at the Rex Cinema at 20 sen a head. The movie they were showing then was another P Ramlee classic called Pendekar Bujang Lapok. It was free seating and I chose to sit near to the big screen. Later after suffering from a slight neckache I sauntered to the back of the cinema to experience a first class seat. They have the reserve class upstairs above the first calss but the entrance was from the stairs outside near the ticket booth.
The Rex Cinema flourished by showing films produced or distributed by Shaw Brothers. Malay films were made at Jalan Ampas Studio in Singapore. We get to know about the actors and actresses from Jalan Ampas Studio via their monthly magazine Majalah Filem produced in glorious colours even though the films were in black and white. Can you recall the names of directors like L Krishnan and B.N. Rao? Ofcourse you will remember Jamil Sulong and Omar Rojik. The make up artist then was A. V. Bapat. I think he was the only make up artist at the studio then.
Great films that have been screened here were West Side Story starring Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn,George Chakiris and Natalie Wood. Such names may not ring any bells to those of the present generation.

We will always remember Ibu Mertuaku with the late P Ramlee doing almost single handedly by being the director, lead actor, composer, singer but defintely he can't claim to be the cameraman. Anyway Ibu Mertuaku with supporting actors and actresses such as Sarimah, Zaiton, Ahmad Mahmud and Mak Dara certainly made the people came out from Rex Cinema red eyes after wiping all the tears shed.
It was at this cinema that I had many dates with my other half. A few days back my other half had a good laugh when we passed by the place and I told her of our dates at the cinema that was on that site.There is another cinema in town by the name of Panggung Geroda. It was along the same road almost opposite to the railway station. This theatre screened films made and distributed by Cathay Keris Film Productions. Panggung Geroda was owned by prominent business people from Pasir Mas comprising of brothers Wan Yaakob, Wan Ishak and Wan Ibrahim. Ultimately the property was inherited by Wan Ishak who passed it on to his son the late Wan Hamat. Upon his demise the property was inherited by his wife Nik Nadiah. Her son owns the Lamborghini that I featured in Look What I Saw In Pasir Mas.
Unlike Panggung Rex which was demolished, Panggung Geroda still stands with a furniture shop fronting it. The theatre itself was once used as a batik making factory after its closure. Currently the furniture shop is using it as part of its showroom. I managed to view the theater from inside but the furniture shop owner was reluctant to let me take photographs of its inside so you have to make do with views from outside. The main building is still intact and the cubicles where the tickets were sold is still discernible.

Perniagaan Sin Kian Huat is now in front of the theater.

My first experience at this cinema was watching The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston as the main actor. It was such a long story that they had to provide and intermission midway. That was when I had my first taste of Coca Cola after seeing it being drunk by some people at the coffee shops in town.

The original coca cola shape.

Later classics such as Ben Hur and the Guns of Navaron were also screened.

If I can remember right the Elvis Pressley’s films came via here too. Remember Blue Hawaii?

The Malay films produced by Cathay Keris featured actors such as the late Nordin Ahmad and Abdullah Chik while the prominent actresses were Roseyatimah and Latfah Omar. Lanchang Kuning was one of the better known titles.

The still standing Panggung Geroda as seen from the back.

This cinema had been the place where the magician John Calvert did a show sponsored by one cigarette brand called Matterhorn. Before the show John Calvert showed hi prowess by driving around the small town with his eyes taped with a thick wad of white material covering it. He drove around by following a police Land Rover weaving flawlessly through every corners of the town. It was a spectacular feat. Later during the show, he mesmerised the audience with his magic shows. Yours truly couldn't afford the entry fee and had to content himself with hearing the loud gasps of the awed crowd and later asked friends who went inside on what transpired. His main feat was sawing a lady in half and finally reuniting the two halves back to her former whole. The climax of the show was when John Calvert threw packets of cigarettes into the audience who were ecstatic to be lucky enough to get one without breaking a limb though they had to jump over seats to get the ciggarettes thrown to them.
When Hindustani films the likes of Sangam and Bobby was played there, it was full house all the way for the number of days they were screened. Such blockbusters will be reserved for special occassions like Hari Raya when all the village folks will converge to town to celebrate. Getting a ticket for a show was a no mean feat. It took brave strong men to push his arm through a small hole to buy the tickets. The ladies will ask the macho males to help buy the tickets for them and a thank you from the ladies was reward enough for these men. Ticket touts will take advantage of the situation by buying them in big numbers and later resold them at an inflated price making a tidy profit for themselves. The ticket seller were in cohoot with them as it made his work easier by selling them in bulk. After the show there will always be a small tip for him. Such tips may help him to offset any mistakes made while giving changes to the customers. I learnt all of this from a former worker of the Geroda Cinema who was also an artist of Panggung Geroda before its closure in 1978 (As told by the artist) ten years after my leaving Pasir Mas to attend college in Serdang. The person I am talking about is no less than Abang Li as he is now popularly known or Ramli Idris as he is named. Tuan Haji Azmy who lives all his life and is still living begs to differ as he said when he got married in 1978 Panggung Geroda was still operating. Perhaps it did close down only a few years later in 1980 or thereabout.

Abang Li make banners and sell his paintings for a living.

The story of Abang Li will be in my future blog. Abang Li or Ramli Idris was the artist at Panggung Geroda. He now paint banners and sceneries for sale at the Mara Arcade in town.
The coming of television brought the death knell to Panggung Geroda. The cinema closed down in after screening the block buster 'Hapuskanlah Air Mata' (wipe away your tears) with the famous late singer Broery Marantika and songstress Sharifah Aini in the lead roles. It was an apt last film to be screened as the cinema had been operating at a loss all the while. After Panggung Geroda closes down Abang Li seeked emplyment at Rex Cinmea which closed down soon after due to the mushrooming of VHS video outlet. People prefer to watch videos in the comfort of their homes than to go to the cinemas.

Both cinemas used to run advertisements in the form of slideshows of their shops. Better establishments like Rado uses short film clips in glorious colors. The sctrachproof Rado Diastar watches has been around since then. Nowadays most fishmongers in Kelantan towsn wear the gold plated Rado Diastar as a symbol of success. I sold my Diastar to prevent my friends from chiding me as being in the fishing industry.

The closure of Rex Theatre happened after 1980 but I can't get any information on the last film screened there. I may get some information after I meet Ah Ho (or Pak Chu as he is affectionately known) the ticket seller who is a very well known figure as he walks around barefooted even to this day.


mamasita said...

O LAISI yea?Jenuh baca cerita you panjang lebar.Nearly stopped for recess!hehe..Semerah Padi is one of my favourites!AV Bapat?Hooi?Dulu kalau tengok cerita melayu,nama dia mesti ada kan?
I think ramai orang Kelantan sudah di bawa down memory lane with your lengthy flashbacks!I feel like a tourist today!You make a great part-time tourist guide!

uncleawang said...

Thank You for sharing.
I minat Elvis dan ingat tak..dulu cola bottle hanya 30sen kalau tak silap.

Zawi said...

Congratulations on being conferred the Datinship.
Panjang ke? No problem I will try to do some precis next time.
Actually I wanted to put in the Azan Semerah Padi but on hindsight the haunting azan by the late Tan Sri may keep you people glued to this longer than necessary.
I remember best about A V Bapat when he made up aewah Ibrahim Pendek into a monkey. It was so good.
When you reach Kelantan's shore soon why not allow me to guide you Datuk around? Then only you can really judge me. Though I am not licensed as such my experience is more than enough to qualify me as one hahahaha.

Zawi said...

Wah peminat Elvis juga rupanya.
Ya harga coca-cola memang 30 sen masa tu.
Kalau pulangkan botol dapat balik 10 sen rasanya. Bila saya pergi serdang lagi terperanjat bila beli Coca-cola dengan harga 15 sen tanpa botol.

Kak Teh said...

Zwai, I look forward to your story on Abang Li. Their stories must be told and retold.
Thanks for sharing.

Zawi said...

kak teh,
A request from you will be expressly executed. It will be the next post then and specially dedicated to a very special friend in London.

Azmy Omar said...


It is a pity that I don't have even a single photo of the REX or Geroda theatre. It would be great if we could find one of each.

Have you tried our friend Mat of SENI BUDI? He might just one of each. It is nostalgic...truly.

The Beatles "A Hard Days Night" was screened at REX way back in 1965. It was a much waited film for me. The lyrics of songs like I Should Have Known Better,If I Fell and And I Love her were all in my head plus the guitar chords too.

On special occasions we were given cheap tickets through schools for movies like Ben-Hur and Ten Commandments. Ohh..those were the days.

Great topic.

Kak Teh said...

I am so sorry Zawi, in my haste I type zwai instead!
I dabbled in studies on Malaysian cinemas when I was doing my MA and it was really interesting to be looking at it from this side of the world.

Looking forward to your Abang Li story.

Zawi said...

Mat promised to look them up but I havent met him yet. Maybe after he has read this blog he will be reminded to make an effort to really find them. I think his late dad must have taken a couple of shots. Some shots of Sin Ah hotel during the flood was sighted at his place though.
I got infected with the Beatles from you after seeing the programme Shindig on your black and white TV.

Zawi said...

kak teh,
You did study such subjects for your MA? If only I had known I would let you have this secret that small cinemas in small towns like Labis and Chaah in Johor screened blockbuster movies earlier than KL. What happen is that new releases have to pass such towns en route to KL from Singapore. What better way to make an extra buck by dropping the films to drop along the way since the films will lie idle for a few days in the cinemas in KL before its actual screening. That was how I saw Gone In Sixty Seconds in Labis and another block buster whose title escape me at the moment.
About misspelling my name, there is nothing to be apologetic about.
Next Change - The story of Abang Li.

Akmal said...

I can only imagine. I know that shop, and I am trying to imagine the fights for the ticket :)
Wayang, sekarang senang. Nak tengok cerita apa, masuk website, book ticket, ambik reference number, bayar guna maybank2u, pegi panggung, ambik tiket, then masuk tengok. Pastu sekali cerita boring, screen cinema tu tengok kita haha.

Zawi said...

I feel so ancient as I didn't know we now can buy cinema tickets the way you describe. Anyway it is only logical that the internet should provide such facilities. Thank you for teaching me something today.

kbguy said...

ha ha, I dind't know Pasir Mas got a cinema. Now even shameful, I didn't even watch any of those movie you mentioned. Maybe it's betul2 old movie. Now, in Kelantan there is no cinema at all. Isn't it nice if the state government can allow one ?

Zawi said...

I don't think it is the state government that is outlawing the cinemas in Kelantan. It is allowed only with a few conditions imposed like seperate seating for the different sexes and the light is dimmed and not totally off. The problem is the cinema business isn't making money so nobody will want to invest to set up a cinema what with sophisticated home theater system available in most homes and a pirated CD is easily available at RM5.00 and can be seen by so many people.
Well if you want to invest ina cinema, I will help you get the necessary approval from the state government.

Gurindam Jiwa said...

I took my family to the Kajang Metro Cinema to watch Transformers.

For the first time my wife and my children had ever been to a cinema. My children didn't like it, because they couldn't walk around during the screening like they usually would when watching DVD.

When the movie was done, and all other patrons were gone, I asked one of the staff to take our photo, for history sake.

Zawi said...

You did the right thing by taking them to the cinema. The children will appreciate it when many years later they could see the picture of themselves being there and done that with their parents which we couldn't do ourselves. How I would cherish it if I could see a photograph of myself in front of any of the old cinemas ourselves. I was a photographer back then and I could have taken all the pictures that I want but I didn't.
They may not like it now but as I said it they will appreciate it later.

Mat Salo said...

Bang Zawi,

Betui kata Datin (Mrs) Mat tomoi tu... macam 10 commandments nak kena intermission pulak. Ha ha. I think my uncle took me to Rex Seremban to watch it.

Going to cinemas back then was a very big deal. In fact these days I con't think of a single event that evokes such majesty as going to the cinema back then. Takkan muktamar PAS atau UMNO AGM kot?

I admit that I'm a movie buff and an aspiring collector. I watched a lot movies in the 60s and 70s that when I entered boarding school, I immediately applied to join the Cinema Club. Every Friday nite we'd have a showing, sometimes ada extra showing for some club to collect derma or something. But my secondary schools years was blessed because I'm the chief projectionist of the Bell & Howell 16mm. But those days, school equipment leaves much to be desired. So I was constantly pelted by "Hoi! Volume, volume!" or "Fo-Cus, Fo-Cus laa bodoh!" from the audience. Sometimes the film will get stuck in the sprocket and the heat of the projector lamp will burn the film there and then and there will be a huge blob on the screen. Then it was time to pull out my self made 35 mm, "Tergendala" slide, while I frantically look for the standby cellophane tape to do the splicing... aah, sweet memories...

Zawi said...

Mat Salo,
I must learn the technique from Mat Bangkai and Che Det whose blog will only feature a few short paras and when you click on 'read more' will the rest of the post be visible. At least it will give an illusion of it being short hahahaha. Anyway when you have so much to tell it is kinda hard to be short.
You have so much to share I am wondering what is keeping you from sharing them with us? Those old stories of yours will make better read than the current boring tales of UMNO divisional AGMs which is keeping many great bloggers from writing their normal stuff.
Did you ever misuse the 16 mm projectors for other films which is of special color? Wow you are good at splicing up films. You should have been a film a director and give Sheih Kickdefella some competition in that filed.

Pak Azmi said...

When I was small, my childhood days were in Pulai Chondong, Manik Urai and Kuala Krai. There was one 'pawangam' in Kuala Krai, if I am not mistaken, Panggung Lido, near the railway station. In fact I had quite a happy childhood lives there. Banyak memories

Zawi said...

Pak Azmi,
Welcome to my humble site.
My family used to live in Guchil Kuala Krai circa 192/83 but by then all cinemas were dead so I am not aware of Panggung Lido in Kuala Krai. The cinemas anywhere played a big role in the entertainment world. In fact even our mindset could be swayed by watching them. I am sure glad that this post rekindled some nostalgic memory of your childhood days.

changgeh said...

I still remember the management of Cathay k.Terengganu came to our school selling discounted ticket for the film To sir With Love -starring Sidney Poitier and Lulu.

Filem hindustan Sangam agak panjang dan ada intermission pulak..boleh keluar beli makanan dan masuk balik. Those were the days.The only mean of entertaiment.

Zawi said...

Yes to Sir with love is always on our mind as back then we look at our teachers as not only our teacher but a mentor who teaches the rights from wrongs. It seems the same tactic is universal among cinemas to offer special priced tickets to students.
Sangam has intermissions too? Didn't see it so I can't recall.

Zawi said...

My ex form teacher in form 5 SIS Pasir Mas sent in a comment via email. I produce here verbatim her comment about the old cinemas of Pasir Mas
Dear Zawi,
Sorry. I do not know how to post a comment. I want to say some things I recall. First, can you remember the bugs in the rattan chairs of the panggung buruk?.. they bit us through our clothes!( aaahhh the itch after a show )and the rats running around... not to mention some ???? smells.. Then, when the hero of the show appeared...the audience broke into applause cheering him on esp the one who rode on to rescue the lady in distress... I used to clap loudly too. I used to live next to the Rex cinema and after watching a show( I remember the Bujang Lapok ones and the other P Ramlee shows ) we used to relived the show for the rest of the week because it was so loud.. we hummed along those catchy songs and laughed at the jokes and got mad again with the wicked stepmothers.....etc oh.. the Hinustani songs reverberated thro the whole row of shops... I visited the P Ramlee's Gallery and the house he was born in last month in Penang.. That brought back memories of my childhood too Best regards,
Miss Wong/Mrs Foo

I was at the Panggung Buruk only once to see Semerah Padi. That story had a sad ending so I guess there was not much cheering. I was fortunate that I didn't get to sit on the rattan chairs and thus was spared the itch from bug bites.
Anyway my experience with bugs happened in Panggung Gerda when I could only afford the 3rd class seat.
Thank you for your comments.

Pp said...


even with VCD, home theathre systems and all - i still get goose piples everytime I queue for tickets to watch movies at cinemas. it is simply different lah!!!

thanks for bringing back the memories of yesterdays....

Zawi said...

How true with what you said. Nowadays cinemas are coming back due to its special ambiance and special effects albeit at a much higher price. As Akmal says it, you can even buy it online making bookings easy.
It is my pleasure to share something nostalgic like this as people of our age had been through it in our early life.

Patricia said...


This was a wonderful journey down memory lane for me. I remember all the movies you talk about - and so remember the friends I was with, and the good times we had, and naughty scrapes we got up to after the movies ;)

Lovely! Thank you for rewinding this old brain. Hahaha.


Zawi said...

That can only mean that we lived in the same era! I am so glad to have rekindled old memories of yesteryear. It was definitely memorable for people like us.

Fauziah Ismail said...

Salam Pak Zawi
How could I missed that when I went down for the roadtrip for Nuance?
Thanks. Now I know there were panggung wayang in Kelantan before.

Zawi said...

I am blurred as to what you missed. There were panggung wayang everywhere in Kelantan even in the villages too. There were panggung wayang that doubled up as Panggung Mak Yong and Panggung Bangsawan. When I was young the Bangsawan led by AR Tompel and another group led by Zeera Agus performed in my small village.
At the end of a Mak Yong show the ronggeng is played and the local males will dance with the ladies of the troupe to the tune of joget and other dances such as cha cha, samba and bosa nova. Each dance is by prepaid coupons.I often wondered where they learn all that dances.

Fazna said...

sorry to interrupt..
but my mum said there was a picture of my grandpa with a tiger that was shoot by him at one of the cinema in pasir you remember anything about it?

Pak Zawi said...

Who is your grandpa? I didn't know about the story of the tiger being shot. I can ask Abang Li, maybe he knows.

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