Sunday, May 17, 2015

Open-air Cinema, South Quay, 1960's

Here's something I remembered from my childhood. Ah, those simple days.

I have posted this sometime back, as a response to a 'photo challenge'. I think it is not too well written, as a poem. It feels too casual and conversational. I have thought of revising it, but well, it's nearly ten years already.

photo by DMedina, image from

Open-air Cinema, South Quay, 1960's

You lucky people today would have laughed and knocked
it down as a dilapidated caricature of a movie house,
the rust-bitten zinc sheets carving a rectangle perimeter
like a stalag wall, no roof, and weeds sprouting all around.

Back then in the village, it was the happening place,
the gossip exchange, the pub, the children's playground,
the lovers' night out, a respite from a hard day.

For 30 cents you may have a blockbuster, but bring your own chair
or stool, or better still lug a sofa, sure there are benches
but they are all filled up if you arrive late and they are not
comfortable to begin with and rumoured to be bug infested.

By sundown the projectionist is testing his equipment
shooting a beam of light onto the screen.

Excuse the kids, they are young and bored
and have great imaginations and this is the signal
for them to jump up on their seats and wave their hands around
in the path of the light throwing shadows of birds, rabbits, dogs
onto the screen, they are such artists.

Excuse the ah pek beside you, he is here for the show, not shadow play,
he will soon be swearing profusely in hokkien
nabeh nabeh nabeh

Excuse also the local louts, cracking melon seeds
puffing away like smoke-stacks, and wolf-whistling
at every skirt that passes their way.

Sure, sometimes there are fist fights in the stands
even before the slaughter begins on the screen
but what's a little side entertainment, no problem.

When the sky above your head is dark, the show starts,
the operator dims the lights, the projectionist
cranks up the volume to sadistic heights,
the giant bullhorn speakers shuddering every wall.

other than that it's your typical wholesome family cinema,
sit back and relax, enjoy Hollywood and Hong Kong in your backyard.

Sometimes it rains, the show goes on, you make tough decisions,
take a chance with the lightning or go home, there are no refunds.

Just as you learn later in life.


pardon the formatting, playing havoc with the lines. :)

It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?”

― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2015

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Blogger Mary said...

Ah, this really evokes my own childhood memories. We had 'outdoor theaters' where we sat inside cars with some kind of crackling speaker attached to the entertainment for the family perhaps, or for lovers on a date. I loved the details you gave, as apparently your movie was totally outside. I think I would have enjoyed the 'exterior' movie as much as the one on the screen!

17 May, 2015 21:58  
Anonymous Nissa Annakindt said...

Wow, this poem really took me to another time and place. You've really expanded my life experience with this one. Very excellent work.

17 May, 2015 22:15  
Blogger Sherry Blue Sky said...

I LOVE this! I can see the whole scene, very humorously portrayed, and so full of life. This was a delight to read. I dont think you need to change a word. I loved it.

18 May, 2015 00:41  
Blogger gautami tripathy said...

Been there Done that..

Even in the late 70s, I have been to Open-Air Cinema in Delhi..

I loved this....

where the night is without wind

18 May, 2015 00:51  
Blogger X said...

Ha. Quite the experience. We used to have this movie theatre, it was so different. There were some rooms that seemed little bigger than a living room. and some had couches. It was always an experience to go there.

18 May, 2015 04:06  
Blogger brudberg said...

The thought of outdoor movie is exotic as it is.. Here in Sweden it's too much daylight during summer, and too cold in winter.. and then all that goes on at a place like this.. Very nice to read.

18 May, 2015 04:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for walking me through one of your childhood memories :) Amazing how memories stand still even as time marches on.

18 May, 2015 05:03  
Blogger Gillena Cox said...

down to earth, easy, conversational piece, looking over the shoulder, nice write CheongLee

thanks for sharing, have a good Sunday

much love...

18 May, 2015 06:09  
Blogger totomai said...

i enjoyed this one. watching outdoors film could also lead you to watch real life unfolding before eyes. lots of distractions around but who cares right?

18 May, 2015 06:33  
Anonymous Donna@LivingFromHappiness said...

I really enjoyed the feel of being at the Open-air cinema....a delightful expereince...

'Sometimes it rains, the show goes on, you make tough decisions,
take a chance with the lightning or go home, there are no refunds.

Just as you learn later in life.'

A wonderful metaphor for life...indeed there are no refunds and we must take our chances.

18 May, 2015 07:52  
Blogger R.K. Garon said...

Regardless of what label/genre you may use, I found it delightful, interesting, and a fun read.

18 May, 2015 08:23  
Anonymous Thotpurge said...

Quite enjoyed the conversational tone!

18 May, 2015 08:26  
Blogger Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

I like the casual, conversational style. I think you made it work really well to create vivid scenes full of action.

18 May, 2015 10:46  
Blogger dsnake1 said...



'exterior' movie it is!it can be as entertaining as the scenes on the screen. :)
i think most of us (at least the older ones) have experienced these outdoor theaters in some points in their lives.


thank you for your kind words. glad that you enjoyed it. :)


yeah, looks like i don't need to revise it. :)


hey, nice to hear from you! :)
you have open-air cinemas in Delhi too? Anyway, the Indian film industry is huge. maybe even bigger than hollywood.


where was this? it's always nice to learn about other places too. :)
thanks for visiting!


exotic it is!
but i think it is more out of common business sense than anything else, as the clientele are mostly working class and poor folks

yes, it will be difficult to have outdoor movies in Sweden with so much daylight. :)


my pleasure!
it interesting how past memories can inspire writing. :)


thank you! always good to see you around. :)


oh yes, sometimes the distractions can be much more interesting than that on the screen, what with all the fighting, flirting and peacocking around you. :D


actually, i wasn't too comfortable with the last line, and thought of removing it. thankfully, i let it stay. :)


ah my friend, my exact sentiments about your works too. :)


thank you! :)


i thought at first that it was too casual. :)

18 May, 2015 21:13  
Blogger Sumana Roy said...

love the joy, coziness and relaxing mood throughout...such a fun read...

18 May, 2015 21:27  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

thank you, Sumana!
and it was also great fun at that cinema too. :)

19 May, 2015 20:00  
Blogger G L Meisner said...

Great prose poem. A wonderful bit of memory.

20 May, 2015 08:54  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

G L,
thank you! :)

20 May, 2015 20:30  
Blogger ashok said...

nostalgic! nice to read...

14 June, 2015 20:35  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

hi ashok, great to hear from you! :)
bet you have experienced this type of cinema yourself?

15 June, 2015 19:43  

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