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 for about a week when I took a day trip out to Pingxi, a popular tourist destination in New Taipei, 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 at that time, so I really wasn’t sure what this place might have been. Not knowing any better, 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 breezed by the original version of this piece with its single photograph and unresolved mystery. Stopping to take a closer look, my eyes widened in surprise, as I immediately recognized the distinctive pattern of staggered holes on the projection room. I wouldn’t have known about it while I was there—but those notches were cut for twin projectors. This place 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 a lone article2 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 perhaps 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 likely shut down in the early 1990s at the very latest. I strongly suspect it was operated by the mining company itself so there’s always a chance they were showing films long into the twilight of mining operations. I’ve uncovered only a handful of references to this old theater online. Two of the better articles (with more information about Shifen in general) can be found here and here, but neither of these contain additional information about the old theater.
I revisited this theater in March 2023, nearly a decade after I first stumbled upon it, completely ignorant of what I had found. This time around I was armed with some foreknowledge, as Josh Ellis had informed me about the state of the interior. Some effort has obviously been undertaken to clean out much of the building—gone were all the video game consoles, discarded shoes, and plenty of other junk. Some of the wooden paneling had also been stripped from the base of the projection room. And there was no sign of the mirror emblazoned with the name of the theater that I, with some serendipity, happened to photograph on my first visit. Any newcomer to the site would find it impossible to name this place based on physical evidence alone.
Although much of the front of the theater had been tidied up, nature had other ideas for the area at the back. Here the rooftop collapsed, and with sunlight streaming in, plant life had colonized much of the former seating area. While most Taiwanese cinemas of this vintage had fully vaulted roofing, this one is a peculiar hybrid of reinforced concrete, with only the last third of the structure open to the elements. At this point it would still be possible to restore the building and transform it into a tourist attraction of some kind, but I’ve seen no indication such a fate has been contemplated by the townspeople.
For reference, here’s the original photo I posted, from back when I was much less disciplined with post-processing…
Here 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.
- 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 (or rather, to encourage those six songs to bring riches to the family), 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, and, if you dig a little more, a comment on this video from someone claiming to be a grandchild of the founder. ↩
- Now offline and long lost, unfortunately. ↩