After the last film of the evening on Sunday, Lin Bin, senior projectionist at the Shanghai Film Art Center, waited a moment at the exit to present flowers and say goodbye to the last audience.
China’s first five-star cinema and the main site of the Shanghai International Film Festival suspended operations on Monday to make way for a major renovation.
An artist’s interpretation of the renovated Shanghai Film Art Center
Each member of the public at the center on Sunday received a flower with a note saying, “Thank you for coming along and see you soon.” To mark his 31st birthday, each ticket that day sold for 31 yuan (US$4.90).
“Tickets on February 20 sold out quickly,” said Lin, a model worker in the city. “We sincerely appreciate our customers’ long-term support.”
“I have a strong emotional connection with the centre,” he added. “I studied to patch films at the center 22 years ago and later became a projectionist.”
Lin has witnessed the rapid development of Chinese film technologies, from still photography to digital and high definition.
He recalled the time when nearly 1,000 moviegoers packed the center in 2016 when Oscar-winning filmmaker Ang Lee’s film “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” premiered in mainland China, the first film involving 3D, 4K and 120 fps technologies.
The center has hosted approximately 1,000 film screenings and special lectures.
A highlight of the renovation will be an upgrade to the centre’s main screening room, which can accommodate over 1,000 people. Room No. 1 will become the most beautiful screening room with a better screen, sound facilities and services, Lin said.
The theatre’s main screening room, which can accommodate 1,000 spectators, will be renovated and modernized.
According to the project, the center will be renovated into “an urban public space for high-quality cultural activities that allows for better interactions with local moviegoers”.
The theater lounge will be converted into an inviting space with distinctive cinematic elements.
The square in front of the center will become a film and cinematic public square open to the public 24 hours a day.
After the renovation, the center will become a key site for film premieres and cultural products, according to the Shanghai Film Group.
In addition to film screenings, the rebuilt center will make room for more public events in the fields of culture, art and fashion.
Wang Jian’er, chairman of the film group, said the transformation was an attempt to preserve and inherit the glories and dreams of the center. It will also contribute to the cultural image of the city.
“The renovated cultural monument fits perfectly into Shanghai’s urban renewal, will better serve people and create more beautiful memories related to cinema and culture,” Wang said.
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE
People take selfies outside the Shanghai Film Art Center on Sunday. The city’s iconic theater suspended operations on Monday after 31 years for extensive repairs and renovations.
The iconic theater was for decades the main venue for the Shanghai International Film Festival, the only Class A film festival in China, on par with the top film festivals in Venice, Cannes and Berlin. The center has received nearly one million domestic and foreign guests at screenings and festival events.
The center was in the spotlight in October 1993 during the first edition of the Shanghai International Film Festival, also the first international film festival in China. Mainland Chinese film maestro Xie Jin, American director Oliver Stone, Japanese director Nagisa Oshima and Hong Kong filmmaker Hark Tsui were among the jury members of the inaugural festival.
Over the years, Italian actress Sophia Loren, French actresses Sophie Marceau and Juliette Binoche, American actors Meryl Streep and Edward Norton have been among the moviegoers who have attended various events at the center.
“I still remember all the film industry superstars who came to the center for the first Shanghai Film Festival, such as directors Hark Tsui, Nagisa Oshima, Oliver Stone and Paul Cox,” said Wang Jiayan, former deputy director general of the center. said on his Weibo microblog. “I have such strong feelings for the center and I know he will get even better.”
His post was retweeted thousands of times by people lamenting the temporary closure and reminiscing about it.
“The art center’s green logo represented the happiness and warmth of my entire childhood,” said Zhang Junyi, 31, who lives near Wuyi Road. Zhang was born the same year the center opened.
“I come here every June to wait in the long ticket line for the film festival. It’s the best time of year for me.”
The center was built in 1991 at the intersection of Xinhua and Panyu Roads in downtown Changning District. It covered 14,000 square meters, had nine separate halls, and was one of the largest cinemas in China.
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE
A spectator takes a photo of movie tickets at the Shanghai Film Art Center on Sunday, the last day before it closes.
The center isn’t the only local landmark being renovated.
The 23-year-old Shanghai Book Town, located on Fuzhou Road in Huangpu District, began renovations in December that are expected to last more than a year. The city’s largest bookstore is set to reopen in 2023 with a chic, new look, catering to the tastes of young readers and offering more services.
The 36-year-old Hua Ting Hotel in Xuhui District closed last week for major renovations.
The city’s first luxury hotel built primarily to serve foreign guests will upgrade its more than 1,000 rooms, suites and bathrooms, as well as public areas, kitchens, banquet halls and exterior walls.