Complete guide to the best Hong Kong movie experiences
There's hardly a street or cha chaan teng in Hong Kong that hasn't had its celluloid moment, yet it can be a strangely uninspiring place to watch a movie. There are more than 50 movie theaters in the city but nearly all of them are bland multiplexes dedicated to the same mix of cheesy Hong Kong comedies, made-in-China epics and Hollywood schlock. Luckily, there are alternatives. Here's your guide to Hong Kong's most memorable movie-going experiences.
Cinemas for cheapskates
Compared to some places, Hong Kong is
still an affordable place to catch a movie, with most cinemas charging
between HK$55 and HK$80 for a ticket. But even here, a few places stand
out from the pack for their great value. The oddly named Paris London
New York cinema in Yuen Long is the city's cheapest at HK$35 for a
regular ticket. Closer to town, Mongkok's Dynasty Theatre charges a
very reasonable HK$45 -- and as a bonus, you'll get to enjoy the most
spacious cinema in town, with more than 900 seats per screen.
Paris London New York, Hong Lai Garden, Ho Pong Street, Tuen Mun, New Territories, tel +852 2452 2123.
Dynasty Theatre, 4 Mongkok Road, Mongkok, Kowloon, tel +852 2399 0363.
Arthouse and indie flicks
The Broadway Cinematheque has been a destination for discerning filmgoers since it opened in 1996 with a focus on independent movies from around the world. In recent years, more commercial films have been thrown into the mix, but the Cinematheque is still the most reliable place to see something you might not catch anywhere else. The weekly Sunday review of international cinema is especially worth seeking out. Also, in June, 20 French films will be shown as part of "Femmes, Femmes, Femmes," a special series on women in French cinema.
Not far away, the Grand Cinema in West Kowloon has also been attracting its share of film lovers. Venus Wong, the general manager of Ying e Chi, a non-profit group dedicated to promoting independent film, says that it has become her favorite commercial cinema in Hong Kong. "There is usually something I would like to see, sometimes alternative and sometimes stupid movies for a laugh," she says. The Grand's 12 screens mean there's always room for off-beat movies and film festivals, several of which take place at the Grand.
Broadway Cinematheque, Prosperous Garden, 3 Public Square Street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon, tel +852 2388 0002.
The Grand Cinema, 2/F, Elements, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, tel +852 2196 8170.
If you want to impress a date or
just pamper yourself while watching the latest blockbuster, check out
the Director's Club, which has two theaters with just 16 plush seats
each. HK$175 will get you a ticket, bottomless drinks, endless popcorn
and two hot dogs. Wines are available from HK$190 to HK$420 per bottle.
Almost as comfortable is the AMC Pacific Place, which features big
leather seats -- "the best seats around," says Time Out film critic
Edmund Lee -- and a bar that serves beer and wine at reasonable prices.
Director's Club, 5/F, Cityplaza, Taikoo Shing Road, Taikoo Place, tel +852 2567 3111; AMC Pacific Place, Level 1, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, tel +852 2265 8933.
The closing of the Fanling Theatre in January took away Hong Kong's last remaining 1950s movie house, and a jewel of a cinema at that. So where's a lover of old-fashioned movie-watching to go? Amy Chin, a veteran film producer who has worked on dozens of Hong Kong dramas and comedies, is fond of the Grand Ocean Cinema, a 1960s-era relic of the days when movie theaters had one big screen and more than a thousand seats. "I like big theatres and there's nowhere else with that kind of atmosphere anymore." Unfortunately, its balcony was removed by renovations in the 1990s, which also stripped the cinema of any retro charm is might have had.
Grand Ocean Cinema, Ocean Centre, 3 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, tel +852 2377 2188.
Films for real cinephiles
Good film does not necessarily make for a good bottom line, so when Hong Kong's commercial cinemas falter, non-profit film organizations step in to help. From now until the end of October, the Hong Kong Film Archive will play host to "From Novel to Film," a series of fortnightly screenings of movies picked by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society, including the classic "Death in Venice" and Martin Scorcese's "The Age of Innocence." It will also screen one great German film per month as part of the 2010 German Film Forum.
The Arts Centre, meanwhile, makes good use of the subterranean Agnès b. Cinema to show films from some of the world's best filmmakers. May will see four films about prostitutes by Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini, Kenji Mizoguchi and Pier Paolo Pasolini. June will see a rare screening of Masaki Kobayashi epic "The Human Condition" trilogy, which follows a pacifist's struggle to survive in World War II-era Japan.
Even more exciting is Club YEC. Every second Friday, Ying e Chi invites independent Hong Kong filmmakers to screen their films in its small Wan Chai studio. The limited space means that you can bet on an intimate post-screening discussion. "Some audience members said it reminds them of the good old days when Hong Kong was still having film society screenings, which gathered a lot of film critics and lovers," says Wong.
Hong Kong Film Archive, 50 Lei King Road, Sai Wan Ho, tel+852 2739 2139.
Agnès b. Cinema, Hong Kong Arts Centre, 2 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, tel +852 2582 0200.
Club YEC, 4/F, Foo Tak Building, 365 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, tel +852 2836 6282.