A Cinema in the Heartlands
Opened by Eng Wah Organisation in 1972, the Toa Payoh Cinema (大巴窑戏院) was nestled in one of Singapore’s oldest Housing Development Board estates. Together with the Kong Chian Cinema, these were among the first few cinemas that rose up in the heartlands of Toa Payoh Central.
The Toa Payoh Cinema showed Mandarin versions of films aired in the nearby Kong Chian Cinema, which mostly screened Hong Kong films dubbed in Cantonese. One of its charms was its stall and circular seats. Tickets for the circular seats were sold at $1 more than the standard stall seats.
Yielding to the Tides of Change
As the appeal of cineplexes within shopping malls grew, Toa Payoh Cinema evolved into the Toa Payoh Entertainment Centre in the late 1990s. As a one-stop destination for food, leisure and entertainment, the entertainment centre was strategically located in the Toa Payoh Town Centre, as well as the Toa Payoh Swimming Complex and Sports Hall. It was a huge draw for people who relished a time of relaxation after shopping or working out. This new leisure space contained three levels. Restaurants, an arcade and the Eng Wah ticketing booth occupied the first two levels, and five screening halls dominated the third level. Besides the cinema, the arcade and two-storey McDonald’s were also popular among students.
As movie-goers’ expectations were raised by other heartland cinemas like Bishan Junction 8’s Golden Village and Ang Mo Kio’s Cathay cinema which had bigger viewing screens and more comfortable cushioned chairs, movie sales at the Toa Payoh Entertainment Centre declined over time. This led it to cease operations in December 2010, to the dismay of some residents. It nonetheless leaves fond childhood memories for Toa Payoh residents born in the 1990s.
In February 2011, Eng Wah Organisation sold the entertainment centre to Hersing Pte Ltd and it was subsequently renamed ERA Centre. It was put up for sale again on 2 November 2015 and finally acquired by real estate brokerage APAC Realty. With this, the ERA APAC Centre came into being.
The present ERA APAC Centre is a four-storey modern reinforced concrete building sitting on rectangular plan, with continuous sheltered pedestrian walkways surrounding its first storey. The building—with exterior façades cladded with aluminium panels of multiple colours forming interesting patterns—now serves as ERA Asia Pacific’s new headquarters.
Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.SG does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of July 2020 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.