Hoover Theatre

Opened by Shaw Organisation in 1960, Hoover Theatre was located at 360 Balestier Road, at the junction of Jalan Ampas and Balestier Road. It was renamed Hoover Live Theatre and, subsequently, New Hoover Cinema.1 In 1996, it closed down to make way for the construction and development of a residential cum commercial project, Shaw Plaza-Twin Heights.2 During its 36 years of history, Hoover Theatre functioned not only as a cinema screening Chinese, English and Indian movies, but also as a live-show theatre and a church.3

Establishment and first 20 years
In 1958, Runme Shaw of Shaw Organisation announced plans to build more cinemas in Singapore, with Hoover Theatre being one of them.4 In 1960, the 900-seat Hoover Theatre was opened as a first-run cinema featuring newly released movies or blockbusters.5 To cater to the ethnic Chinese majority in its vicinity, the cinema screened mainly Chinese movies.6 As a first-run cinema, tickets were priced at $3 per circle seat, $2 for back stall seats, and $1 for front stall seats.7 Apart from screening first-run Chinese movies and English movie reruns, film buffs were also entertained with Japanese films during the annual Japanese Cultural Festival from 1977 to 1980.8

Hoover Theatre was also the site of a few dramatic events in the 1960s. In April 1961, a gang of robbers failed to crack open the safe that kept the cinema’s takings for the day, so they robbed the watchman instead.9 In December 1961, six cinema workers were accused of assault against the theatre manager, but were acquitted in February 1962.10 In November 1962, a communist supporter was arrested in the theatre for carrying 98 copies of a pro-communist pamphlet published by the Malayan Communist Party.11 Then in 1967, a protest march by 100 students against national service began from Hoover Theatre and proceeded along Balestier Road. Six were later arrested for the unlawful demonstration.12

For about 20 years, Hoover Theatre functioned as a cinema attracting primarily Chinese movie fans.13 In December 1982, it was closed down due to declining cinema attendance. The auditorium space was then leased to a company managed by Robert Chua, a Singapore-born Hong Kong television producer.14

Changing occupants
In 1983, Hoover Theatre was renamed Hoover Live Theatre, providing good, clean, live entertainment for families.15 It was redesigned to include a two-level stage and two spiral staircases. In addition, the latest special effects equipment that produced laser beams, smoke and bubbles were installed.16 From 1983 to 1988, the theatre provided live variety shows targeted at fans of Chinese music and entertainment shows. It featured local and foreign comedians, bands, singers and dancers.17

From December 1988 to 1992, Hoover Theatre functioned as a church. It was leased at S$20,000 per month for three years to an independent church, His Sanctuary Services. The church used the site to conduct Sunday services and other activities such as group meetings, fellowship and counselling sessions. Reverend Roderick Tay, who headed the church, had approved the use of the former theatre as a church as the seats and large stage were suitable for its purpose. In December 1991, the church gave up its lease as it was looking for a more permanent place for its services. Kavitha Video Centre, a distributor of Indian videos and music cassettes, then leased the premises for a three-year period.18

In January 1992, Hoover Theatre re-opened as New Hoover Cinema, the first cinema since 1986 to screen Indian movies regularly. V. Shanmugam, director of Kavitha Video Centre, was prompted by his many Indian customers to lease Hoover. With Hoover’s re-opening, Indian movie fans would have a cinema to view first-run and classic Tamil, Sinhalese, Malayalam and Hindi films. Ticket prices for the four daily and five weekend shows were priced at S$5 for stalls, and S$5.50 for circle seats.19

In 1996, the New Hoover Cinema screened the last Indian movie to its audience. Plans were proposed to demolish the cinema, together with Shaw Plaza and the neighbouring President Theatre, to make way for a development project comprising a condominium, shopping centre and a six-screen cineplex. Work began on project, which was named Shaw Plaza-Twin Heights, when the Hoover and President theatres were demolished in July 1996.20

In November 1999, Hoover was reopened as the six-screen Balestier Cineplex, occupying two levels of Shaw Plaza.21 The new cineplex was equipped with the latest digital sound systems and reclining seats. As it is not a suburban cinema, it was allowed to screen Rated (Adult) or R(A) movies.22

: Hoover Theatre is opened by Shaw Organisation.23

1982: Announcement of Hoover Theatre’s closure as cinema.24
1983: Hoover Live Theatre is opened, featuring live theatre entertainment.25
Dec 1989: Hoover Live Theatre begins to function as a church.26
1992: New Hoover Theatre is opened and begins to screen Indian movies.27
1996: New Hoover Theatre is closed and demolished.28
1999: Balestier Cineplex is opened on the site of former Hoover and President theatres.29

Nureza Ahmad

1. John Lui, “Next Change at the Hoover: Indian Movies,” Straits Times, 12 January 1992, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Karl Ho, “New Life in Reel Estate,” Straits Times, 11 September 2002, 4 (From NewspaperSG); “Residential Projects,” Shaw Organisation, accessed 9 February 2017.
3. Lui, “Next Change at the Hoover.”
4. Nan Hall, “Showman Shaw Declines to Share Secrets, Says Hard Work and Luck Help,” Straits Times, 20 April 1958, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Leong Weng Kam, “A New Beginning for Hoover,” Straits Times, 20 January 1983, 7 (From NewspaperSG); “Shaw Cinemas, Post War (1945–1970),” Shaw Organisation, accessed 9 February 2017.
6. Shaw Organisation, “Shaw Cinemas, Post War.”
7. Shaw Organisation, “Shaw Cinemas, Post War.”
8. “Japanese Films,” Straits Times, 10 September 1977, 13; Tan Suat Lian, “A Touch of Japan,” Straits Times, 15 August 1980, 4. (From NewspaperSG0
9. “Robbers Fail to Crack Safe,” Straits Times, 25 April 1961, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
10. “Assault at Cinema: Manager Agrees to Compound,” Straits Times, 20 February 1962, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “Jail for Two with Red Papers,” Straits Times, 12 January 1963, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
12. “Six Men, Girl Held in Anti-Call-Up Protest,” Straits Times, 30 March 1967, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Shaw Organisation, “Shaw Cinemas, Post War.”
14. "Live Shows," Straits Times, 26 January 1983, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “Live Shows.” 
16. Pat D’Rose, “Live Shows with Laser Beams and Smoke Machines,” Singapore Monitor, 20 January 1983, 5; Chua Ngeng Choo, “Hoover Theatre Hopes to Get License in Time for Opening Show,” Singapore Monitor, 8 February 1983, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
17. “Hoover Theatre Joins List of Cinemas turned into Churches,” Straits Times, 11 February 1989, 15; “Two More Cinemas to Screen Indian Movies,” Straits Times, 13 September 1992, 19. (From NewspaperSG)
18. “Hoover Theatre Joins List of Cinemas”; “Two More Cinemas to Screen Indian Movies.”
19. Lui, “Next Change at the Hoover.”
20. Marissa Chew, “Shaw to Launch Mixed Project at Balestier Soon,” Business Times, 3 December 1998, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
21. “Balestier Cineplex,” Straits Times, 6 November 1999, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
22. “Shaw Opens Balestier Cineplex,” Straits Times, 6 November 1999, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
23. Lui, “Next Change at the Hoover.”
24. “Hoover Theatre Joins List of Cinemas.”
25. “Live Shows.”
26. “Hoover Theatre Joins List of Cinemas.”
27. Lui, “Next Change at the Hoover.”
28. Ho, “New Life in Reel Estate.”
29. “Balestier Cineplex.”

The information in this article is valid as of 26 August 2017 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Motion picture theaters--Singapore
Commercial buildings