Goodbye, UA Cinemas!

March 10, 2021 10:57
Photo: Bloomberg/RTHK

To many, UA Cinemas is like a distant relative, someone you know for a long time although it has been quite a while since your last visit.

That is why many Hong Kong people are mourning the UA Cinemas, one of the city’s largest cinema chains, which abruptly shut down on Monday after dutifully serving for 36 good years.

All six venues across the city were closed down due to unavoidable and devastating pressure since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, it said.

Sadly most of us did not bid farewell to our long-time friend because of the social distancing measures, which shut down theaters for more than five months in the last 12 months.

But it is hard to forget what UA Cinemas, founded by late Jewish businessman Ira Kaye, did for Hong Kong.

For one thing, UA brought in the mini-theatre concept to Shatin called UA6, the first-of-its-kind in Hong Kong and Asia back in 1985. UA was also the first one to bring in the luxurious private theatre “Director’s Club” to Taikooshing in 2001, not to mention the IMAX screens in 2007.

It goes without saying the UA Cinemas had always been committed to providing the highest quality of cinematic entertainment, as its notice said.

In its heyday, UA Cinemas ran 10 locations. Unfortunately the best period did not last long.

Its K11 Art House in K11 Musea was taken over by MCL Cinema last month and it still owed landlord Hang Lung Properties for over HK$7 million of unpaid rents of its Amoy Plaza unit and its cinema at Times Square owed nearly HK$2 million to Wharf Real Estate Investment.

It had zero income over the past six months but still had to shoulder the burden of high rents and fixed costs, the company said.

Despite the mounting financial pressure under the pandemic, UA Cinemas managed to give severance pay immediately to more than 280 staff.

Does this spell the end of the cinema operators like Broadway, AMC and MCL? Well, they are on life line too given they can only operate at 50 per cent occupancy. Let’s hope there will not be another casualty.

Of course that also depends on whether the government would be more sympathetic about the loss of another good franchise, and the landlords to be more considerate and supportive of the cheapest form of entertainment that we all have some good memories about.

Thank you, UA Cinema! You just joined the Hall of Fame list along with Dragonair, Swindon and others who are no longer serving.

-- Contact us at [email protected]

EJ Insight writer