013 • OUTRAM, SINGAPORE

Click for Lightbox. Photo: (C) Remko Tanis

A THURSDAY IN JULY, 13:25:22

The Yangtze Cinema was the last cinema in Singapore to show adult movies. It closed down in 2016. The Pearls Centre, in which the Yangtze was housed, had to make space for a metro line and some new development right here in the heart of Chinatown.

Just before it vanished from the earth, the Pearls Centre felt like the seediest place in the city-state, which would still have it ranking pretty low on a list of seediest places world wide. Most of the 199 shops shut down, iron roller shutters protecting nothing left inside. The Shine Beauty Hair Salon (unisex) even put its barber chairs outside in the fluorescent light of the centre’s hallway where daylight never shone.

IT Pro Tech Solutions (‘Internet available here!’) was still open, just like the sports gambling shop and the Mirror D’ International College for higher learning in beauty product application. Telstar Net-a-Maid had already shut, but was smart enough to put up a poster on its door prompting you to ‘Select your maid on line’.

Of course the Private Club (‘For Members Only’), the Diamond KTV on the third floor and the public restroom all remained open to the very last day of Pearls Centre. The latter even clean. This is still Singapore.

The Yangtze screened its last films on 29 February 2016, both starting at 5pm. A Monday. Nothing like a Monday afternoon for some R21-action in a dilapidated theatre. The features were ‘Taste’, a Korean film about a married man who has affairs with his neighbors after losing his job, and ‘Man Hua Fang’, also Korean, about an actress who cannot act.

The Yangtze, which opened in 1977, was famous for showing sex films from Europe, Japan and South Korea. It made the shift to the genre when it became obvious there was not enough money to be made from its initial focus on Hong Kong martial arts films. It had already converted half of its original four screening rooms into a KTV karaoke bar and nightclub.

There’s still plenty of other KTV’s and seedy pubs in Singapore. Guess the Pearls Centre really had it coming. I mean, this photo was taken in 2015. Look at the phones advertised on the elevator doors. Clear signs that life had disappeared from the centre even before the demolishing crews arrived.

Only the Yangtze held it up ‘til the end as one of the last of the Mohicans.