July 12, 2009
Front view of the Lutong Cinema.
Side door to the medium priced seats.
Another door by the side. The door further in led to the front seats which were for 50 cents.
The box offices for the cinema tickets surprisingly are still there. A friend of mine is posing happily for me. She is younger and from the rural Bau area and cannot remember going to the cinema in Kuching those days. She started working at the age of 16 and was introduced to videos in the restaurant. She never needed to go to any cinema (by which time it was going out of fashion).
This old building used to house the Lutong Cinema. The building itself was owned by Shell Company and was rented to the Lutong Cinema (according to some sources) for only RM2.00. Perhaps it was the corporate policy of that period of history to help the Shell staff enjoy their leisure hours. Today it is home of the Iban speaking SIB Church.
However my story is not so much about the church but about the joy of going to the Lutong Cinema in the age of movies of the 60's when people could afford only 50 cents tickets and whole families would go for the Bollywood movies when the matinee was on. "Tengok wayang India " was the favourite past time of many elderly ladies of all races!!
In fact no many would even know the word "matinee".
My good friend remembers how much she enjoyed going to watch "Sangam" or "Mother India" several times in the cinema with all her brothers and sisters. Another friend remembers watching all the P Ramlee movies which she watched over and over again.
The Shell senior staff and top administrative officers enjoyed level social life at Piasau Club enjoying sundowners and a cocktail party or two during the weekends and sometimes even during the week whereas the middle executives spent their leisure hours at the Kelab Shell Lutong.
the technical staff and the lower income group had the Lutong Cinema as their "escape" from the humdrum daily goings on. The cinema was the heart of "social life" according to some of the labourers engaged by Shell. But when the TV and videos came into the lives of the Lutong and Miri people the cinemas made their exit.
In the 60's Iban and other Ulu students from Tanjong Lobang School would spend a good Sunday in Lutong with some relatives who were staff of Shell. They would spend a good morning going to the church first and then having lunch with the host family. In the afternoon they would pack into their schedule an afternoon show. After the show their host would see them off by bus....sometimes the boys would walk all the way from Miri to Tanjong just to save some money for the next movie...They would be just in time for the evening meal.
A Sunday outing like this was like a summer holiday!
One of Tanjong Lobang's old boys is now working for Aramco in Saudi Arabia. He had his share of movie going days too. He too worked for Shell Lutong for a while before he went overseas with his family.
Believe it or not (but it is true) Aramco is building Saudi's first cinema after 75 years of oil operations in the country. Aramco is "edutaining" the Arabs according to one of the news articles recently. Perhaps the Lutong Cinema did just that for the Lutong populace all those years ago.