Once a structure synonymous with classic entertainment, The Cathay building today is an architecture of vibrant culture, embracing both linear Art-Deco design and modernism with its rich history. The Cathay Building has been a distinct landmark since 1939 when it first opened its doors to avid movie-goers. Now a shopping mall infused with fashion and trends, five storeys house retail and dining indulgences while two floors are dedicated to an eight-hall multiplex cinema, including The Picturehouse – Singapore's first arthouse theatre. The Cathay: A History Did you know that The Cathay have been entertaining generations of Singaporeans for over 70 years? And we have the late Dato Loke Wan Tho to thank for. On 18 July 1935, the Associated Theatres Ltd was established. Dato Loke Wan Tho the visionary propelled the business, which was later renamed Cathay Organisation, into one of the most prominent film enterprises in South East Asia. In 1936, the Dhoby Ghaut site was purchased by Mrs Loke Yew (Dato Loke Wan Tho's mother) and construction of the Cathay Building commenced in 1937. When it reopened in 1939, the Cathay Building held the distinction of being Singapore's first skyscraper. It housed Singapore's first air-conditioned cinema, lavish apartments, a sophisticated restaurant and a hotel. The Cathay Cinema became an icon. In 2000, the Cathay Building closed its doors for re-development. While the historical façade remains intact, The Cathay once again greeted patrons in 2006 with a makeover to its interior – now adorned with first-class retail experience, and top-of-the-line cinematic enjoyment.
The Hype is always at the 5th Floor Cineplex where flocks of patrons queue up for the latest commercial films. Staying true to its agenda, The Picturehouse is a bonus movie suite, screening festivals films and is frequent by avid film lovers, local and overseas filmmakers. It is also one of the hangout places for private screenings due to its professional screening equipment and technicians readily available.
If you are looking to catch some films shot in different perspectives and stylistic methods, yes! The Cathay Cineplex – The Picturehouse is the only cinema suite that caters to that need. Are art films all boring? Oh no! Be surprised at what is served onto your plate. You might get mind blown or probing messages from the films. The prices of these films tickets cost the same rate as commercials films unless otherwise at rare occasions.
I am an avid fan of The Picturehouse and The Cathay Cineplex. The seats in The Picturehouse can contain around 80 patrons, very wide and comfortable. So comfortable that one may fall asleep in the midst of comfort and air con.
The seating plans of The Cathay Cineplex cater to mass audience. Comfortable and very well spread out. No stupid protruding pillars or toilets built at the side of the cinemas. This helps to prevent distractions from toilet-visiting people.
The Cinema screen is wide and at comfortable height. One can almost feel like being part of the film. It’s just so surround.
The Cathay Cineplex feels like a family-cinema in comparison to Golden Village or Shaw or Eng Wah or Film Garde.
One is able to catch similar movies showing in Golden Village. What’s the next highlight?
The Nachos and Fried Chicken chunks are delicious! The cheese is so authentic and yes, very cheesy and fragrant. A sandwich counter is available for super hungry patrons. Prices are reasonable.
The Cathay Gallery located on the 2nd floor is an initiative to showcase the history of The Cathay Building that has existed for over 70 years.
For non-moviegoers, there are ample of shops, restaurants and cafes to hang out at.
Apart from the cinema, there really is nothing to attract the crowd to this mall. The shops here don't attract lots of human traffic because of their overpriced, albeit interesting, items. The only two shops that do bring in a steady number of customers are Starbucks and Ben & Jerry's - many students choose to study at these two places, particularly because The Cathay is quieter as compared to other places in town. It is also conveniently located near SMU and Dhoby Ghaut MRT station, which makes it easy for students to meet up to study together.
The shops in The Cathay are worth checking out though, some of the shops sell some really interesting items which are not commonly seen in other shops, but they're generally too overpriced and it's not worth buying them unless you've got some spare cash to spend, or unless you're feeling particularly generous that day.
There's quite a couple of things to do at The Cathay. You could catch a movie, duh! There's also an escape room, which I mistakenly thought was some kind of salon. You could also game with some of your friends or chill in one of the cafes there!
Dining options are quite limited and I usually end up grabbing something from Makisan, eating at Astons or 18 Chefs.
Unlike other malls, Cathay doesn't have much of the conventional retail chains and that is probably what makes this mall stand out from Plaza Sing, it's next door neighbour. If I'm in the mood, I will usually head to Starbucks for a cup of coffee as this is the nearest Starbucks to school. Movies at the Cathay are the main distraction during the school term when the semester gets too much into your head and you really just need that break away from all the frustration of studies. In addition to that, fans of fast food chain Popeyes rejoiced when they opened an outlet there not so long ago. The best part about Cathay are the decorations especially during festive seasons like Christmas and New Year.
Cathay Cineplexes also has niche events such as the annual German and Italian Film Festivals, which are great for arty film buffs. If there is a choice between The Cathay and Cineleisure, definitely pick The Cathay for its superior seats and ambience. Be careful though, these special-event films tend to sell out very fast so grab your tickets early.
Cathay is a relatively quiet mall. It serves as a nice hideout from the crowd and hubbub at neighbouring Plaza Sing. Hence, the experience at Cathay is soothing and relaxed. What you can expect at Cathay besides the cinema (DUH), Starbucks, frolicks and Ashtons, is a platter of local fashion stores like egg3, Volta and Revoltage which are all worth the visit and a must-visit for me when I'm at Cathay.
There is also the dance school - Jitterbugs which offer dance lessons to almost all ages from ballet to hiphop and to burlesque. Tucked in a corner of the top floor is also the games haven and heaven, St. Games Cafe where you can rent a room with your friends to play virtually any game you want on any gaming platform of your choice!
Movies wise, it is good. As there is another cinema at Plaza Singapura, you are more likely to get your desired movie slot and seats as compared to other cinemas. You also do not have to compete with the rest of the people for prime seats and tickets! The only food I have tasted from this mall is the pizza bar located at the basement. It was nothing special at all. And quite expensive. About $6.50 per slice? Totally not filling at all. The toilets are clean as well and the lifts move at a fast speed. I can't stand waiting long for lifts in shopping malls. I'd rather take the stairs. Happened to me when I was at TANGS shopping earlier this afternoon. I would say, never belittle the power of a lift and appreciate fast-moving lifts, especially if you are lazy like me :o)
If you are not on tight budget, there is a Cathay chinese restaurant. For shopping, I think it is great for no budget male and female shoppers. What I mean is that the price for the apparels are at least $30 and above. I can get a better grade for that sum of money. Just my own perspective.
I hardly go to The Cathay, and I think so far, all the times I went there is because there wasn't any suitable movie showtimes at Plaza Singapura. For myself, I feel that the main drawpoint of The Cathay is its theatres. The variety and appeal of the shops there don't make it stand out as compared to other malls in town, but remains an alternative to Plaza Singapura as a more spacious and definitely less crowded mall.
2) Walk from the MRT
While the walk from Dhoby Ghaut MRT isn't far, I still find it quite distasteful especially when the weather is hot, and the constant need to look out for traffic along the way. I definitely prefer other shopping areas when malls are easily connected through underpasses and fancifully designed walkways.
3) A poorly-named mall
I always find it a chore to emphasize on 'THE Cathay' when mentioning the mall, and you know, to not mislead others in thinking that I am referring to some random Cathay theatres out there. While I doubt that this would affect the volume of its visitors, but I always thought that they could have given it a better name.
There is also a cinema upstairs and the reception area is big and spacious. It’s nicer to wait around there compared to other small cinemas. Those looking to play games can head to St Games which offers Rock Band, Kinect and more. I don’t really like to drink bubble tea but on some rare occasions I’ll buy Gong Cha since it’s conveniently upstairs.
The mall is very accessible too, being a stone’s throw from Dhoby Ghaut MRT. If you’re bored of The Cathay there’s no worries too for you can just walk to Plaza Singapura for a wider range of food selection.
But that’s pretty much about it. I don’t do much at The Cathay because the shops are similar in terms of prices and goods. The prices can be rather ridiculous and I’m not into being extravagant. I go there mainly for movies and nothing else.
Concept of the mall is focused mainly on the lifestyle aspect. Stores like egg3, Leftfoot and Vol.ta cater to the fashion conscious. The more mainstream restaurant here is Astons, which is almost always filled to the brim, so it is unadvisable to make impromptu visits as the queue can easily multiply in mere minutes.
St Games Café can also assist in killing time if the next movie timeslot is hours away, and at a reasonable price too. Ben & Jerry’s provides a casual ambience for a catch up session over quality ice cream. At the basement level, there is a mini counter for movie tickets! Saves the time and effort to go all the way up when you can purchase your tickets more conveniently.
Overall, I like the vibe that Cathay exudes — it is laidback, unpretentious and the lack of an extensive crowd makes it a good hangout to chill.
That said, Cathay itself does not have anything that interests me. The retail outlets are more higher-end and sell clothings at pretty expensive prices, and the food outlets are also average. It would not be a place I would specially go to eat or hang out.
The location is also less convenient than going to Plaza Singapura, which is right outside the MRT station. Going to Cathay requires either crossing several traffic lights that take an extremely long time to change or crossing a precarious stretch of road that has no specific barrier meant for people to cross via the taxi stand area.
Nonetheless, Cathay is a good place to watch movies as the cinema is very large and you have a high chance of getting tickets for popular movies. In addition, the cinema food has much more variety, such as potato wedges and chicken nuggets as compared to other cinemas. Even though it is pricey, this is standard for all cinema food and I do not mind it especially when I can share the cost with my friends.