The Cathay was Singapore’s first air-conditioned cinema which opened in 1939. Behind the cinema stood the 16-storey Cathay Building, which opened in 1941 as Singapore's first skyscraper and was gazetted a National Monument in 2000.
The Cathay Building was where the Japanese flag was first flown as one of the conditions of the British surrender during World War II. Subsequently, this building housed the Japanese Broadcasting Department, the Japanese Military Propaganda Department and the Japanese Military Information Bureau. The cinema inside was renamed Dai Toa Gekijo (“Greater East Asian Theatre” in Japanese) and used to screen Japanese propaganda films.