Yingong Theater 銀宮戲院

Yingong Theater, Changhua City 彰化市銀宮戲院
The historic Yingong Theater, Changhua City.

Despite living in Changhua City for half a year I never paid much attention to the clothing store across the street from the historic Confucius Temple 彰化孔子廟. At that time my Chinese abilities were rudimentary and I wasn’t really aware of what kinds of buildings to watch for while navigating the variegated urban landscapes of Taiwan. Only after encountering Datong Theater 大同戲院 in Taitung City did I become fascinated by the rise and fall of Taiwanese cinema. Since then I have mapped the locations of more than a hundred vintage theaters and documented many of their fates. Most end up abandoned or destroyed—but Yíngōng Theater 銀宮戲院 earned a new lease on life after it was purchased by NET, a Taiwanese fashion retailer.

Yingong Theater Facade
A closer look at the Yingong Theater facade. There are elements of Art Deco present here but the design is also quite simple. The original name of the theater is readily seen at the top, reading right-to-left in the classic style.
Inside the Renovated Yingong Theater in Changhua City
Upstairs at the renovated Yingong Theater. The exposed wooden beams are part of the original roof.

Yingong Theater looks like it dates back to the Japanese colonial era but images of American bombing runs from World War 2 indicate this is not the case. There is some ambiguity about when exactly it was built, but it almost certainly dates back to the early 1950s, making it a contemporary of Xinxing Theater 新興戲院 in Xinpu, another classic theater with Japanese architectural influences profiled on this blog. According to government records the theater was officially registered as a business from 1957 to 2001, though other reports suggest the actual theater closed down in 1979, with NET moving in around 1997. The upper level was used only for storage for many years but after renovations in 2015 it recently opened to the public.

Yingong Theater After Dark
Yingong Theater after dark, shot in 2018.

Not much remains of the original theater apart from the wooden ceiling beams and the facade but it’s better than nothing. So many historic theaters in Taiwan are destroyed because their large size and high ceilings make them unsuitable for most other commercial uses. Among those that are renovated few look anywhere near as nice as this one. Rural theaters are an exception—there are several examples of classic movie houses in small towns or the countryside that have been transformed into tourist attractions—but there aren’t so many of these vintage theaters left in major urban centers. On one hand we may lament the disregard for cultural heritage—but on the other there’s an awful lot of old buildings around and they can’t all be saved, can they? At least Yingong Theater remains accessible, a relatively dignified reminder of the cinematic history of central Taiwan.

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