Shaw House (Lido)
by Koh, Jaime
Shaw House, located at the junction of Orchard Road and Scotts Road, is a commercial building that houses the Lido multiplex, the Isetan Japanese department store as well as other retail outlets, eateries and offices. It is built and owned by Shaw Organisation. The original building was completed in 1958 and demolished in 1990 to make way for the present Shaw House, which was completed in 1993.
Shaw and Shaw Pte Ltd (or Shaw Brothers Pte Ltd, which has since become Shaw Organisation) bought the site on which Shaw House now stands in 1952. The land was then largely vacant except for a petrol station. The East India Company originally granted this plot of land to a William Scott in 1845. After purchasing the site, the Shaw brothers levelled 500,000 sq ft (around 46,500 sq m) of land to build the original Shaw House and the adjacent Lido Theatre.1
The Shaw brothers – Runme Shaw and Run Run Shaw – came to Singapore in the 1920s to expand their family film production business, which was then based in Shanghai.2 The construction work for Shaw House started in December 1956 and was completed in January 1958. Singapore’s then Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock officiated at the official opening ceremony of the Shaw House held on 22 November that same year.3
Shaw House was considered one of the most modern buildings in Singapore at that time. It was also the first skyscraper to be built at the junction of Orchard and Scotts roads. The 10-storey building was fully air-conditioned and featured underfloor duct wiring for its telephone system as well as a Lamson letter chute that blended in with the interior design. Its façade incorporated accordion windows that were designed to prevention sun penetration while letting in the light. Luxurious materials such as imported Italian marble, specially hammered plaster and Venetian glass mosaic tiles were used in the construction of the building.4 The roof was built with unifil vermiculite, a non-perishable heat insulation that gave full protection to the building from sun and rain.5 The building also featured state-of-the-art lifts that could carry up to 14 passengers at a time while travelling at a speed of 500 ft (about 152m) a minute.6
Shaw Foundation grant
After the Shaw House was completed, ownership of the building was given to the Shaw Foundation as the latter’s first grant. The Shaw brothers set up the foundation in 1958 with the objective of doing charity work in the British Commonwealth. The foundation’s value was set at $10 million, with Shaw House being the main asset. The brothers announced that they would each contribute cash or assets to make up the difference between the value of Shaw House and the target of $10 million.7 The Shaw House was estimated to be able to generate $300,000 a year, which would go towards the foundation’s activities. The building itself was estimated to be worth $5 million at the time.8
The Lido Theatre was built as part of the Shaw House development in the 1950s. The Lido, as it was then commonly known, was Shaw Brothers’ flagship cinema in its chain of theatres that included the famous Capitol Theatre.9 The Lido occupied a separate building adjacent to Shaw House and was officially opened by then Commissioner-General of Southeast Asia Robert Scott on 6 February 1959. The charity premier of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) studio’s film, Torpedo Run, marked the occasion.10
With the opening of the Lido, Shaw Brothers were able to secure the rights to screen MGM films in Singapore, in the process displacing rival Cathay Organisation as the American studio’s local distributor.11
The Lido was then billed as the most luxurious theatre in Singapore. Like Shaw House, the Lido was fully air-conditioned and specially imported Italian marble was used for the building’s frontage and columns.12 The theatre was designed by architectural firm Van Sitteren and Partners, with Steen Sehested and Partners acting as consulting engineers. The entrance lobby, measuring about 100 ft wide (approximately 30 m), was considered one of the largest in Southeast Asia at that time. The interior of the cinema featured polished timber louvres and an American Walker Hi-Gain screen that took up the entire width of the auditorium. The theatre’s seating consisted of imported American Bodiform chairs that were arranged with ample legroom to ensure maximum comfort and freedom of movement.13
In 1959, the Rosee d’Or Room restaurant-cum-nightclub opened at Lido Theatre. Taking up the first floor of the theatre, the establishment was described as the most modern and well-equipped restaurant in Southeast Asia.14
Stars at Lido
Many celebrities have appeared at the Lido over the years. Among the first to grace Lido Theatre was Italian actress Rossanna Podesta, the star of the film Helen of Troy. She appeared at the Lido as part of the Italian Film Gala in March 1959.15 Eva Gabor, Bo Derek, Jet Li, Dolph Lungren, Michelle Yeoh and Patrick Stewart have also made appearances at the Lido. In 2001, Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Crowe appeared at the Lido for the premiere of the movie, Vanilla Sky.16
In 1989, the Lido and Shaw House underwent a major overhaul. The two buildings were subsequently torn down in 1990.17 In its place was a new Shaw House that incorporated commercial and retail space as well as cinemas. In place of Lido Theatre, the new Lido was a multiplex made up of five smaller cinemas instead of one major theatre.18 The new Shaw House was redeveloped at a cost of S$100 million and had Japanese department store Isetan as its anchor tenant.19
The construction of the new Shaw House took three years to complete. It was reopened in May 1993 with five cinemas, five storeys of retail outlets and an office tower.20
In 1996, the Lido underwent another renovation to add three more cinemas. Two of its largest cinemas in the multiplex, Lido One and Lido Two, were retrofitted with new seats in 2004 and 2003 respectively.21
In 2010, the Lido again underwent another round of renovation. After spending S$20 million and undergoing seven months of upgrading works, the Lido was reopened as a multiplex comprising 11 cinemas with a combined seating capacity of 1,960.22 The latest redesign transformed the Lido’s lobby into a lifestyle area that featured floor-to-ceiling windows with unblocked views of Orchard Road, an updated movie wall mural, a million-dollar Panasonic Super Video Screen and special digital living poster screens.23
In February 2013, it was announced that Shaw House would be expanded to incorporate the adjacent Shaw Centre, also owned by Shaw Organisation. The revamp was estimated to be completed by March 2014.24
1952: Shaw brothers bought site at the junction of Orchard and Scotts roads.
1956: Construction of Shaw House and Lido began.
1958: Shaw House officially opened.
1959: Lido Theatre officially opened.
1990: Shaw House and Lido torn down for redevelopment.
1993: New Shaw House incorporating Lido multiplex completed.
1998: Lido renovated to include three new cinemas, bringing total to eight.
2010: Lido renovated to include three new cinemas, bringing total to 11.
2013: Shaw House underwent revamp to incorporate the neighbouring Shaw Centre.
1. Shaw Organisation. (2007). Shaw Theatres Lido. Retrieved from http://www.shaw.sg/sw_cinemadetails.aspx?cplexCode=30%20210%20236%2039%20155%2056%2075%20124%20123%2077%2076%20246%2036%2085%20160%200
2. Shaw Organisation. (2007). About Shaw: The Beginning 1924–1933. Retrieved 2020, April 3 from Shaw Organisation website: https://about.shaw.sg/1-thebeginning.html
3. Opening date. (1958, November 12). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. The rise of the House of Shaw. (1958, November 22). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. An excellent example of an attractive modern roof. (1958, November 22). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. New lifts take 14 at 500 feet a minute. (1958, November 22). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Shaws' $10 million charity plan. (1958, November 19). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Skyscraper income to assist charities. (1958, November 21). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Millet, R. (2006). Singapore Cinema. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING q791.43095957 MIL)
10. Scott will open new theatre. (1959, February 6). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. $3 mil. film switch in wake of big new cinema. (1958, April 1). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Scott will open new theatre. (1959, February 6). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Planned for future, ready today. (1959, February, 6). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. This is most modern night-club in East. (1959, July 20). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. The star of 'Helen of Troy' in Singapore next week. (1959, March 19). The Straits Times p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Rolling out the red carpet at Lido. (2001, December 15). Today, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Soh, S. (1989, December 14). Lido, Shaw House to be redeveloped. The Business Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Lido out, multiplex in. (1989, December 16). The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Soh, S. (1989, December 14). Lido, Shaw House to be redeveloped. The Business Times, p. 1; Ishiyama, K., & Lim, M. K. (1990, July 21). Isetan clinches deal to take up shop space at Shaw House. The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Coming Soon. (1993, April 14). The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Shaw Organisation. (2015). Lido Theatre Reopen. Singapore. Retrieved 2020, April 3 from Shaw Organisation website: https://about.shaw.sg/22-lidoreopen.html
22. Shaw Organisation. (2007). Shaw Theatres Lido. Retrieved from http://www.shaw.sg/sw_cinemadetails.aspx?cplexCode=30%20210%20236%2039%20155%2056%2075%20124%20123%2077%2076%20246%2036%2085%20160%200; Shaw Lido 5 & 6 closed for renovation. (2010, September 17). The Business Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Shaw Organisation. (2015). Lido Theatre Reopen. Singapore. Retrieved 2020, April 3 from Shaw Organisation website: https://about.shaw.sg/22-lidoreopen.html
24. Durai, J. (2013, February 22). Revamp will link Shaw Centre to Shaw House. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at April 2020 and correct as far as we are able to 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.