I stumbled upon the remains of Dawu Theater 大武戲院 while on a bicycle tour of southern Taiwan in 2015. Located in the small town of Dawu, it was one of approximately 36 theaters operating in Taitung in the cinematic heyday of the 1960s and 70s, all of which are now abandoned or destroyed. This particular theater was in business from 1968 to 1983 and allegedly accommodated as many as 1,200 patrons, earning it the title of nánbàtiān 南霸天, or “southern tyrant”, for how it dominated the industry in the southernmost part of the county. Hardly anything remains after three decades of exposure that would identify Dawu Theater apart from a small sign in the antechamber.
In a curious twist of fate I did not know the Chinese characters for movie theater at the time—but I would learn them the very next day after chancing upon the very last of Taitung’s old theaters. As such, I had no idea this was a theater until I went through my photos a year later.
This particular piece is actually an adaptation of a small part of the full account of my day. I have embarked upon a more dedicated study of the many old theaters of Taiwan and wanted this one to have its own entry in the catalog despite the paucity of photos and information.