漫步香港電影放映史 Walking through the History of Hong Kong Film Screening

文章:黃心怡|指導:葉月瑜教授

19世紀末到1920年代,是香港電影的啓蒙時期,在香港島有不少電影放映歷史的痕跡,從露天戲院到正規電影院,記載了香港電影放映業的重要發展。暑假將至,不妨循著文字,在鬧市中進行一場戲院遺址的「朝聖」。


第一站:中國銀行大廈

中國銀行大廈前身是舊香港大會堂,香港第一個放映電影的場所。來自法國的莫里斯薩維特(Maurice Charvet)教授在1897年4月24日抵港,四天後,他在大會堂的聖安德魯音樂廳舉行電影放映(圖一),是香港首次有記錄的電影放映活動。

圖一:(左)薩維特抵港新聞(《德臣西報》,1897年4月24日);(右)原定於4月27日舉行的放映因機器調整順延一天(《士蔑報》,1897年4月27日)

 

第二站:娛樂行

位於雲咸街的娛樂行前身是威士文酒店。德國人迪特里希(Dietrich)在1907年7月17日於《南華早報》刊登廣告,表示會在酒店放映百代公司的電影(圖二)。1909年,美國商人卡斯雷(V. D. Casley)在原址籌建明星影畫戲院,於3月20日開業。[1]

圖二:威士文酒店放映廣告(《南華早報》,1907年7月17日)

明星影畫戲院的壽命很短,只營運了不足一年,卻有其涉及知識產權案件的紀錄。在開業的第十天,便遭到當時最大的片源公司百代起訴,指明星影畫戲院的電影盜用了百代的「公雞」商標。最後戲院被判罰款五十元及承擔五十元訴訟費,並需在七天內交還影片予百代,是香港第一宗關於電影知識產權的侵權案(圖三)。

圖三:巴西(Pathe,又稱百代)影畫洋行控告明星影畫戲院新聞(《華字日報》,1909年3月31日)

 

1909年,明星戲院原址開辦了沙龍影畫戲院。[2]沙龍戲院在1910年年末被比照戲院取代。[3]有別於其他戲院只有晚場的放映模式,比照戲院把日場放映常規化,每逢星期三、六都在四、五點開場[4],成為比照其中一個重要的特色。1918年,比照戲院更名為新比照戲院,於平安夜開幕,並由H.W.雷(H.W. Ray)擔任戲院新管理人。[5]

在新比照戲院旁邊的青年會(YMCA)也是香港早期放映電影的場地之一。與營商為主的放映場地不同,青年會主要用於透過影像宣揚福音。當傳教士講道或演說時,為了增加趣味,他們會向市民和教徒分享他們拍攝的遊歷影片(圖四)。故此,青年會成為了大眾了解西方風貌和知識的重要切入點,使青年會的角色與以娛樂為主的戲院有所不同。1925年,省港大罷工影響了香港經濟,不同場所或機構都出現因罷工而停止營運的情況,包括電影院。電影院停業時,青年會仍會不定期放映電影,成為當時大眾欣賞電影的重要場所。[6]

 

圖四:青年會演說新聞(《華字日報》,1909年10月28日)

 

第三站:戲院里

戲院里是另一間著名舊戲院——於2007年結業的皇后戲院的原址。皇后戲院前身是第二代香港影畫戲院。第二代的香港影畫戲院在1915年開業[7],1922年結業,1924年改建成皇后戲院。[8]

 

第四站:永安集團大廈

早期的電影放映場所,例如大會堂、戲園、露天電影院,都並非專門放映電影的場所,在德輔道中的永安集團大廈則曾是香港第一間正規的電影院——域多利影畫戲院。域多利在1907年10月31日開幕,由西班牙人雷瑪斯(Antonio Ramos)創辦。開幕時,《南華早報》和《華字日報》的廣告上亦標榜了其設施的不同,相對地,價錢也較其他放映或兼放電影的場所昂貴:廂房收一元;頭等收七毫。域多利重建後在1911年重新開幕,院內設備也有所提升(圖五),被指裝潢華麗,改變了大眾眼中露天,設施簡陋的電影院印象,在香港戲院史中具有重要地位。

圖五:(左)域多利戲院廣告(《華字日報》,1907年11月7日);(右)重建後,院內新增電風扇(《華字日報》,1911年5月29日)

第五站:中環街市

在中環街市對面的海濱空地搭建布篷,用布密封四周,只留門口供觀眾進出,便是簡單的露天戲棚。《華字日報》在1903年的廣告指中環街市對面的同記辦館會放映電影,頭等位收六毫;二等位收四毫(圖六),較有粵劇表演的戲園貴。雖然有環境不舒適的問題,露天影院以新電影為賣點,所以收費較其他放映場地高。以不同類型的短片如紀錄片、馴獸師片、戰爭片組成兩小時的影片。[9]放映的戲目會每天變更,也是吸引觀眾的另一賣點。

圖六:電戲到港廣告(《華字日報》,1903年10月5日》)

 

第一代香港影畫戲院是海濱空地的第一間電影院,在1907年12月4日首次刊登廣告(圖七)。雖曾同時放映電影和歌舞表演,佐以西樂,節目相當豐富[10],卻很快被雷瑪斯開辦的奄派亞影畫戲院在1910年取代。[11]而奄派亞則沿用了域多利戲院的格局和設施。

圖七:香港影畫戲廣告(《華字日報》,1907年12月4日)

第六站:太平山街一帶

高陞戲院(高陞園)原址位於皇后大道西117號,當年與重慶戲院和太平戲院齊名。[12]三間戲院本來都不是專門放映電影的場所,而是提供粵劇表演的劇院,但隨著電影越來越受歡迎,成為市民的娛樂方式之一後,劇院便開始轉型,同時放映電影和舉辦粵劇表演(圖八),後期改成主要放映電影,可見電影漸漸演變成市民生活的一部分。

圖八:高陞園廣告,同場放映畫影戲(《華字日報》,1903年1月1日)

 

重慶戲院的營運時間較短,卻是當時重要的戲院之一。其前身為同慶戲園,原址位於大安臺,是當時華人聚居的太平山區。同慶戲園在1890年改建,1892年更名為重慶園,仍以表演粵劇為主,此類表演場地都以「園」作為名稱。當電影慢慢受到重視後,重慶和高陞開始使用戲院一稱。從1900年和1904年的《華字日報》廣告中可見,除了名稱從重慶園改成重慶戲院外,戲院的座位也從只有板位、椅位,新增了「貴妃牀」的座位(圖九),可見為吸引觀眾進場,戲院在設施方面也有所改善,並以此為賣點。

圖九:(左)重慶園廣告(《華字日報》,1900年2月19日);(右)重慶戲院廣告(《華字日報》,1904年11月29日)

 


參考資料

殷慧嘉:〈香港的早期電影院:1900-1920〉,《走出上海:早期電影的另類景觀》。北京:北京大學出版社,2016,頁193-237。

葉月瑜:〈演譯「影戲」:華語電影系譜與早期香港電影〉,《走出上海:早期電影的另類景觀》。北京:北京大學出版社,2016,頁19-68。

電影與創意產業研究中心:〈香港早期電影院的遺址尋蹤〉。香港:嶺南大學,2020,檢自:https://www.ln.edu.hk/cfci/ktproject/index.html

電影與創意產業研究中心:〈香港電影放映與接收史料庫(1897-1925)〉。香港:嶺南大學,2023,檢自:https://digital.library.ln.edu.hk/en/projects/flim/intro

 

[1] 〈The Star Cinematograph〉廣告,《德臣西報》,1909年3月20日,第4頁。

[2] 〈A New Cinematograph〉新聞,《南華早報》,1909年12月30日,第6頁。

[3] 〈Bijou Scenic Theatre: Successful Opening Night〉新聞,《士蔑報》,1910年11月17日,第4頁。

[4] 〈比照頭等影畫戲院〉廣告,《華字日報》,1916年2月9日,第8頁。

[5] 〈The Coronet: Picture Theatre Enter-prise〉新聞,《南華早報》,1918年12月25日,第3頁。

[6] 〈青年會影畫〉新聞,《華字日報》,1925年2月2日,第9頁;〈演影中國名畫(海誓)〉新聞,《華字日報》,1925年12月1日,第7頁。

[7] 〈香港影畫戲院新張廣告〉,《華字日報》,1915年8月9日,第3頁。

[8] 〈Queen’s Theatre: To be Opened Next Month〉新聞,《士蔑報》,1924年4月14日,第1頁。

[9] 〈英國最出色生動影畫戲初次到港〉廣告,《華字日報》,1905年9月16日,第7頁。

[10] 〈香港影畫戲〉廣告,《華字日報》,1907年12月4日,第3頁。

[11] 〈Local News〉,《南華早報》,1910年4月2日,第2頁。

[12] 〈戲園之托辣斯〉新聞,《華字日報》,1907年6月20日,第3頁。

 

Article by Wong Sum Yee|Instructed by Professor Yeh Yueh Yu

The end of the 19th century to the 1920s was a period of enlightenment for Hong Kong cinema, and many traces of the history of film screening can be found on Hong Kong Island, from open-air cinemas to formal cinemas, marking the important development of Hong Kong’s film screening industry. With the summer holidays approaching, why not embark on a “pilgrimage”, using words, to explore the cinema sites in the midst of the city?


First stop: Bank of China Tower

The Bank of China Tower, formerly the old City Hall of Hong Kong, was the first venue for film screenings in Hong Kong. French Professor Maurice Charvet arrived in Hong Kong on 24th April 1897, and four days later he held a film screening in St Andrew’s Hall of the City Hall (Fig. 1), which was the first ever recorded film screening in Hong Kong.

Figure 1: (Left) News of Charvet’s arrival in Hong Kong (The China Mail, 24th April 1897); (right) the screening scheduled for 27th April was postponed by one day due to machine adjustments (The Hong Kong Telegraph, 27th April 1897)

Second stop: Entertainment Building

The Entertainment Building in Wyndham Street was formerly known as the Cafe Weismann hotel. On 17th July 1907, Dietrich, a German, advertised in the South China Morning Post that the hotel would screen the films of Pathé (Fig. 2). In 1909, V. D. Casley, an American businessman, planned to establish the Star Theatre in the same location, and it was opened on 20th March.[1]

Figure 2: Advertisement for the screening at Cafe Weismann (South China Morning Post, 17th July 1907)

The Star Theatre was very short-lived, having been in operation for less than a year, yet it had a record of being involved in intellectual property cases. On the tenth day following its opening, the theatre was sued by the largest film source company at the time, Pathé, for stealing their trademark “Rooster” for their films. The cinema was eventually fined $50 and ordered to pay $50 litigation costs and return the film to Pathé within seven days, making it the first case of intellectual property infringement in Hong Kong (Fig. 3).

Figure 3: Pathé Film Company suing the Star Theatre (Chinese Mail, 31st March 1909)

 

In 1909, in the same location as the Star Theatre, the Salon-Cinema Theatre was opened.[2] In late 1910, the Salon-Cinema Theatre was replaced by the Bijou Scenic Theatre.[3] Unlike other cinemas, which only had evening screenings, the Bijou Scenic Theatre made matinee screenings a regular feature, starting every Wednesday and Saturday at four or five o’clock,[4] which became a key feature of the cinema. In 1918, the cinema was renamed the Coronet Theatre and opened on Christmas Eve with H.W. Ray as its new manager.[5]

The YMCA next to the Coronet Theatre was also one of the first venues for film screenings in Hong Kong. Unlike the more commercial venues, the YMCA was used mainly for preaching the gospel through pictures. When missionaries preached or made speeches, they would share their films taken on their travels with the public and the followers to make it more interesting (Fig. 4). Thus, the YMCA became an important entry point to the public’s knowledge and understanding of the West, making its role different from that of an entertainment-based cinema. In 1925, the Canton-Hong Kong Strike affected Hong Kong’s economy. Various establishments or institutions, including cinemas, ceased operation as a result of the strike. When the cinemas ceased operation, the YMCA continued to screen films from time to time, making it an important venue for the public to enjoy films at the time.[6]

Figure 4: News article of the YMCA delivering a speech (Chinese Mail, 28th October 1909)

Third stop: Theatre Lane

Theatre Lane was the site of another famous old cinema, the Queen’s Theatre, which closed in 2007. It was formerly the second generation of the Hong Kong Theatre. It opened in 1915,[7] closed in 1922 and was converted into the Queen’s Theatre in 1924.[8]

Fourth Stop: Wing On House

Film screening venues in the early days, such as City Hall, theatres and open-air cinemas, were not specifically intended for film screening. The Wing On House on Des Voeux Road Central was the first formal cinema in Hong Kong-the Victoria Theatre. It was opened on 31st October 1907 and was founded by a Spaniard by the name of Antonio Ramos. At the time of its opening, it was advertised in the South China Morning Post and the Chinese Mail as having different facilities and, correspondingly, higher prices than other cinema venues: one dollar for a box seat and 70 cents for first class. The Victoria Theatre was reopened in 1911 after its renovation, and its facilities were also upgraded (Fig. 5 ). It was said to have changed the public perception of open-air cinemas with modest facilities, thereby occupying an important place in the history of cinemas in Hong Kong.

Figure 5: (Left) Advertisement for the Victoria Theatre (Chinese Daily News, 7th November 1907); (right) New electric fan inside the cinema after the renovation (Chinese Daily News, 29th May 1911)

Fifth stop: Central Market

In the waterfront space just across the street from the Central Market, a simple open-air theatre was established using fabric to enclose the surrounding area, leaving only the doorway for the audience to enter and exit. An advertisement in the Chinese Mail in 1903 stated that films would be shown at Tung Kee opposite the Central Market and that the first class seats were charged at 60 cents and the second class seats at 40 cents (Fig. 6), which was more expensive than those cinemas with Cantonese opera performances. Despite the problem of an unpleasant environment, the open-air cinema used new films as its selling point and therefore charged more than other screening venues. The cinema included a variety of short films, such as documentaries, tamer films and war films, forming a two-hour programme.[9] The films shown would change daily, which was another selling point for the audience.

Figure 6: Advertisement about the arrival of films in Hong Kong (Chinese Mail, 5th October 1903)

The first generation of Hong Kong Theatre was the first cinema in the waterfront open space, with the first advertisement placed on 4th December 1907 (Fig. 7). Although it had a wide range of programmes showing both films and singing and dancing performances accompanied by Western music,[10] it was soon replaced in 1910 by the Empire Cinematograph Theatre founded by Ramos.[11] And the Empire continued to use the same layout and facilities as the Victoria Theatre.

Figure 7: Advertisement for Hong Kong Theatre (Chinese Mail, 4th December 1907)

Sixth stop: Tai Ping Shan Street Area

The Ko Shing Theatre (Ko Shing Yuen) was originally located at 117 Queen’s Road West and was once a well-known theatre alongside the Chung King Theatre and the Tai Ping Theatre.[12] The three theatres were not originally intended to screen films, but to provide performances of Cantonese opera. However, as films gradually became more and more popular as a form of entertainment for the public, the theatres began to transform into venues for both film screenings and Cantonese opera performances (Fig. 8) and later converted to show films primarily, thus indicating that cinema had gradually become part of the public’s life.

Figure 8: Advertisement for Ko Shing Yuen, featuring a picture film during the show (Chinese Mail, 1st January 1903)

The Chung King Theatre was one of the most important cinemas of its time, although it operated for a relatively short period of time. It was formerly the Tung Hing Theatre, located in Tai On Terrace, an area in Tai Ping Shan where the Chinese community lived at the time. In 1890, it was renovated and was renamed “Chung King Yuen” in 1892. The main focus of the theatre was still on Cantonese opera, and the venues for such performances were often named “Yuen”. When cinema became more important, Chung King and Ko Shing began to use the term “Theatre”. As can be seen from the advertisements in 1900 and 1904 in the Chinese Mail, apart from changing the name from Chung King Yuen to Chung King Theatre, seat accommodation was also changed, with “chaise longue” (Fig. 9) added in addition to seats in board and chairs, thus indicating that the theatre had improved its facilities in order to attract audiences to the theatre and that this was used as a selling point.

Figure 9: (Left) Advertisement for Chung King Yuen (Chinese Mail, 19th February 1900); (right) Advertisement for Chung King Theatre (Chinese Mail, 29th November 1904)

 

References

殷慧嘉, “香港的早期電影院(Cinemas in Hong Kong in the early days):1900-1920”, 走出上海:早期電影的另類景觀. Beijing: Peking University Press, 2016, p.193-237.

Yeh Yueh Yu, “演譯「影戲」:華語電影系譜與早期香港電影 (Interpreting “Film Screening”: The Lineage of Chinese Films and Early Hong Kong Films)”, 走出上海:早期電影的另類景觀. Beijing: Peking University Press, 2016, p.19-68.

Centre for Film and Creative Industries: “Exploring and Trekking Hong Kong Historic Cinema Districts”. Hong Kong: Lingnan University, 2020, retrieved from: https://www.ln.edu.hk/cfci/ktproject/index.html

Centre for Film and Creative Industries: “A Historical Archive of Film Exhibition and Reception in Hong Kong (1897-1925)”. Hong Kong: Lingnan University, 2023, retrieved from: https://digital.library.ln.edu.hk/en/projects/flim/intro

[1] Advertisement “The Star Cinematograph”, The China Mail, 20th March 1909, p.4.

[2] News article “A New Cinematograph”, South China Morning Post, 30th December 1909, p.6.

[3] News article “Bijou Scenic Theatre: Successful Opening Night”, The Hong Kong Telegraph, 17th November 1910, p.4.

[4] Advertisement “Bijou’s first-class picture film cinema”, Chinese Mail, 9th August 1915, p.8.

[5] News article “The Coronet: Picture Theatre Enter-prise”, South China Morning Post, 25th December 1918, p.3.

[6] News article “YMCA Film Screening”, Chinese Mail, 2nd February 1925, p.9; News article “A Famous Chinese Painting in Film (Sea Oath)”, Chinese Mail, 1st December 1925, p.7.

[7] “Advertisement for the opening of Hong Kong Theatre”, Chinese Mail, 9th August 1915, p.3.

[8] News article “Queen’s Theatre: To be Opened Next Month”, The Hong Kong Telegraph, 14th April 1924, p.1.

[9] Advertisement “Britain’s finest motion picture film arrives in Hong Kong for the first time”, Chinese Mail, 16th September 1905, p.7.

[10] Advertisement “Picture films in Hong Kong”, Chinese Mail, 4th December 1907, p.7.

[11] “Local News”, South China Morning Post, 2nd April 1910, P.2.

[12] New article “Trust of the Theatres”, Chinese Mail, 20th June 1907, p.3.

 

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