Lùxìng Theater 陸興戲院 was one of the very first abandoned buildings I explored in Taiwan after arriving back in 2013. I had only been in Taipei 台北 for about a week when I took a day trip out to Píngxī 平溪, a popular tourist destination in New Taipei 新北, and disembarked from the train at Shífēn Station 十分車站 on a whim. Everyone else on the train had the same idea—which meant the narrow street leading east to Shifen Waterfall 十分大瀑布, reputedly one of finest in the Greater Taipei Area and my intended destination, was immediately overwhelmed with pedestrian traffic.
Opting for a more serene route I ducked down an alleyway and soon find myself wandering backroads lined with buildings in various states of disrepair. One of these crumbling ruins was open to the street so I stepped inside and had a look around. What was this place, I wondered? A factory, perhaps? But I had no experience in the ruins of Taiwan, nor could I read any Chinese, so I did not solve the puzzle. Not knowing what to make of it, I dubbed this place the “House of Green Shoes”, naming it after the unusual amount of footwear that had been discarded inside. This is the name under which one of these photos originally appeared on this site in 2014.
Fast forward to 2017. While perusing old posts I changed upon the original version of this piece with its singular photograph and the unresolved mystery of whatever this place was all about. I stopped to take a closer look and my eyes widened in surprise, immediately recognizing a distinctive pattern of staggered holes on the far wall. I wouldn’t have known about it while I was there—but those notches were cut for twin projectors. This dump was formerly a movie theater!
A closer look at the photos I shot revealed the name of the theater—which was there all along, written on the mirror outside the entrance—but not much of its history1. Obviously it was built for the many miners who used to work in these mountains, an assumption corroborated by this lone article mentioning the theater by name. I’d wager it was a mining company theater, probably built in the mid-1960s with the opening of the New Pingxi Coal Mine 新平溪煤礦, now the Taiwan Coal Mine Museum 台灣煤礦博物館. That article mentions the theater has been abandoned for 50 years (已廢棄約五十年) but it seems far more likely that’s when it was built. Most of the mines in this part of Taiwan closed in the late 1980s, with the very last going out of business in 1997, so it’s reasonable to assume this theater probably shut down in the early 1990s. I strongly suspect it was operated by the mining company itself so there’s always a chance they were showing films until the bitter end.
Now that I go looking for more information I’ve uncovered a few blogs that made reference to this old theater. Two of the best (with more information about Shifen in general) can be found here and here, but neither of these contain additional information about the old theater. For reference, here’s the original photo I posted, from back when I was much less disciplined with post-processing…
Hopefully I’ll have a chance to return some day, for I’m sure I can take better photos with a more informed eye. In the meantime, I’ll sign off by echoing my original sentiments about the “house of the green shoes”: it truly was the first of many more explorations to come.
Update: I’ve received credible reports that the interior of this old theater has been stripped. Not much remains apart from the outer shell of the structure nowadays.
- Initially I transcribed the characters on the mirror as Lóngxìng Theater 隆興戲院, which agreed with other sources I consulted on the web. More recently local history buffs surmised that the theater was actually named after one of the landlord’s six sons, and the first character most of us had identified was not quite right. For reference, this thread on Facebook is where the correction was made, and it was later backed up by The Thief of Places. ↩