Around Back at Yuandong Theater, Xiluo

Xiluo Yuandong Theater 西螺遠東戲院

Xiluo is a small historic town in rural Yunlin, Taiwan. Despite its diminutive size Xiluo was once home to three standalone movie theaters: the eponymous Xiluo Theater (西螺戲院), Yisheng Theater (一生戲院), and Yuǎndōng Theater (遠東戲院, literally “Far East Theater”), the subject of this brief report. Previously I misidentified Yisheng Theater as Yuandong, something I only learned after visiting a photo exhibition at Huashan 1914 Creative Park in 2017. After realizing my mistake I went to some lengths to locate and later visit this theater—which, in hindsight, I’ve passed on several occasions without noticing it down a small side street of the same name.

Xiluo’s Yuandong Theater
In front of Xiluo’s abandoned Yuandong Theater, located down a small alleyway.
Yuandong Theater Ticket Booth Trash
The former ticket booth now collects trash. The rooms beyond the window are used for storing all manner of farming equipment and supplies.
Remains of the Yuandong Theater Projector Room
Deteriorated remains of the projection room.
Charred Beam Inside Yuandong Theater
A charred wooden beam draped with poultry netting.

There is nothing particularly photogenic about the charred remains of this KMT authoritarian era cinema. The front of the building shows evidence of a fire and most of the back of the structure—including the stage, screen, and rooftop—has been completely removed. Instead of seating for hundreds one will now find a modest chicken farm and garden. Even the balcony area surrounding the former projection room was repurposed for use in raising chickens at one point.

Animal Cages and the Projector Room
Chicken cages and the projection room, easily identified by its staggered portholes.
Balcony View at Yuandong Theater
The view from the balcony. What was once a theater has become a small urban farm.

Not much can be found online about Yuandong Theater, a consequence of the common name (which was used dozens of times all around Taiwan, making it tricky to isolate in search results) and the presence of Xiluo’s much more famous Japanese colonial era theater just down the street. Government records are scant, though I did manage to turn up one reference to a meeting that took place at Yuandong Theater in 1967, neatly establishing an upper limit for the date of construction. The only other reference I found to Yuandong appears in this human interest story about a local painter who used to make movie posters around town.

Around Back at Yuandong Theater, Xiluo
Yuandong Theater from around back. Here you can see where the original rooftop would have met the front of the building.

I would not recommend going out of your way to visit this decrepit old building—it was completed dismantled in late 2018, leaving nothing more than an empty lot that has since been replaced by a new housing development. It is still visible on Google Street View if you know how to use the time travel feature.

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