Jinxing Theater Balcony

Jinxing Theater 金星大戲院

Jīnxīng Theater 金星大戲院 is located in the small town of Zhīběn 知本 on the southern outskirts of Taitung City, Taitung, in southeastern Taiwan. Zhiben is home to the Katipul group 卡地布部落 of the Puyuma people 卑南族, one of Taiwan’s recognized Indigenous groups, but this theater was constructed in 1967 to cater to the many KMT veterans who settled here after the completion of the Central Cross-Island Highway 中部橫貫公路. Named after Venus (literally “Golden Star” in Chinese), it went out of business shortly after it was sold to a lumber company in 1980 and has been abandoned ever since.

Jinxing Theater From the Street
Jinxing Theater from the highway. From the outside it appears to be in fairly decent shape. A local man waves from the steps, where he customarily smokes cigarettes and watches passing traffic.
Outside the Former Jinxing Theater
A closer look at the former entrance to Jinxing Theater. Movie posters would have been shown in the display case to the left, and if you look closely you should be able to see the metal grating of the ticket booth.
Jinxing Theater Lobby
A first glance inside the cluttered lobby of the old theater.
Jinxing Theater Ticket Booth Entrance
Ticket booth entrance.
Inside the Jinxing Theater Ticket Booth
From inside the ticket booth.

Despite its remote location, this theater is no secret to urban explorers and history buffs alike. It is regularly featured in television news and print, most prominently in this excellent article from the state-owned Central News Agency 中央社, this Hakka TV segment, and this 15-minute piece produced for local television news. The first human interest story focuses on former projectionist Lǐ Míngshèng 李明盛, a former KMT soldier responsible for three theaters in the Zhiben area in its cinematic heyday1. He relates some interesting stories about screening films during the long years of the KMT authoritarian era, when close monitoring and censorship of movie theaters was the norm. The others feature commentary from community leader Wáng Zhèngyuán 王正元.

A Vast Emptiness Inside Jinxing Theater
The remains of Jinxing Theater, overgrown and exposed to the elements.
Jinxing Theater, Taitung County
The wooden frame of the roof remains intact but unsound. I wouldn’t be surprised if it collapses sometime soon.

The history of theater in eastern Taiwan is inexorably linked with the opening of the Cross-Island Highway and subsequent influx of KMT veterans, many of them single men. The population of most settlements in eastern Taiwan nearly doubled in the 1960s and 1970s, drawn by the booming lumber and mining industry and guaranteed employment through state-sponsored retirement programs like the Eastern Development Corps 東部警備開發總隊. Zhiben was the site of a major flood protection and land reclamation project as well as the eponymous Zhiben Farm 知本農場2, employing a workforce of thousands. But this period of great prosperity was short-lived; by the 1980s the population began to shrink as employment opportunities dwindled, and most theaters (including this one) soon closed.

Jinxing Theater From the Balcony
Looking down on the overgrown theater from the mezzanine. The foliage conceals deep holes in the floor.
Jinxing Theater Balcony
The mezzanine level at Jinxing Theater. Note the staggered projection holes on the back wall.
Discarded Film at Jinxing Theater
Discarded and decaying film hanging on a rusty nail inside the old theater.
Rusty Projectors at Jinxing Theater 1
Rusty projectors remain inside the projection room at Jinxing Theater.
Rusty Projectors at Jinxing Theater 2
These are Crown brand projectors, exactly the same as those found in Dongxing Theater, just down the road.
Abandoned Yealap Piano
An abandoned piano on the mezzanine level. Google returns no useful results for YEALAP.
Broken Keys
Broken keys. Surely this old piano is out of tune.
Postal Service Today No. 278
Postal Service Today, No. 278, showing the iconic Eluanbi Lighthouse 鵝鑾鼻燈塔.

If you perused some of the video footage I linked to earlier you will notice that the theater was still relatively intact, whereas it is obviously open to the elements in the photographs shown here. After poking around I learned the structure suffered devastating damage when the powerful Typhoon Nepartak 颱風尼伯 roared ashore in 2016, making landfall in Taimali, immediately to the south of Taitung City. Now that the roof is gone the process of decay is likely to accelerate.

Rooftop Framing at Jinxing Theater
The view from the rooftop. Whatever structure originally enclosed the theater was stripped away by a typhoon in 2016.
Rusty Sign on the Rooftop of Jinxing Theater
These rusty metal characters would have originally displayed the name of the theater.

Jinxing Theater takes some effort to reach, but once you’re there it’s easy to access. There are no barriers to entry, and visitors are warmly welcomed by local residents, but the interior is far from safe. Apart from the usual hazards (rusty nails and such), there are several deep holes in the floor near the stage, and some of those may be obscured by overgrowth. Exercise caution should you wish to see it for yourself!

The Garden Next to Jinxing Theater
A jagged concrete frame next door has been converted into a community garden.

If you find yourself in the area, Zhiben is also home to Dōngxìng Theater 東興大戲院, already featured on this blog. I visited both theaters while cycling down the Huādōng Valley 花東縱谷 in 2018, a trip documented at length in this series of posts.

  1. The small town of Zhiben was once home to three theaters: the eponymous Zhiben Theater 知本戲院 (demolished long ago), Dongxing Theater, and Jinxing Theater. 
  2. KMT veterans constructed the levees lining the Lìjiā River 利嘉溪, just to the east of Zhiben. For more about Zhiben Farm check out this article about some of the heritage buildings on the original site of the farm. 

Series: Huadong Valley Ride 2018 花東縱谷自行車旅行

Field notes and photographs from a week of cycling from Hualien City to Taitung City along the scenic Huādōng Valley 花東縱谷 of eastern Taiwan in the spring of 2018. Several themes emerged while writing about this trip: old standalone movie theaters, of which I visited nearly 20; derelict railway infrastructure including stations, military checkpoints, and abandoned lines; relics of the Japanese colonial era, particularly former Shinto shrines; and Indigenous Taiwanese culture. This series is now complete, totaling approximately 26,000 words and 280 pictures.

  1. Huadong Valley Ride 2018: Hualien City
  2. Huadong Valley Ride 2018: Hualien City to Fenglin
  3. Huadong Valley Ride 2018: Fenglin to Yuli
  4. Huadong Valley Ride 2018: Yuli to Guanshan
  5. Yuli Shinto Shrine 玉里神社
  6. Chishang Wuzhou Theater 池上五洲戲院
  7. Huadong Valley Ride 2018: Guanshan to Taitung City
  8. Guanshan Zhonghua Theater 中華大戲院
  9. Jinxing Theater 金星大戲院
  10. Dongxing Theater 東興大戲院
  11. Huadong Valley Ride 2018: Taitung City

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