The best Hong Kong movie experiences

(CNN) — There’s hardly a street or cha chaan teng in Hong Kong that hasn’t had its celluloid moment, yet it can be a strangely uninspiring place to watch a movie.

There are more than 50 movie theaters in the city but nearly all of them are bland multiplexes dedicated to the same mix of cheesy Hong Kong comedies, made-in-China epics and Hollywood schlock.

Luckily, there are alternatives. Here’s your guide to Hong Kong’s most memorable movie-going experiences.

Cinemas for cheapskates

Settle down for a cinematic treat in Hong Kong.

Courtesy pexels

Compared to some places, Hong Kong is still an affordable place to catch a movie, with most cinemas charging between $7 (HK$55) and $10 (HK$80) for a ticket. But even here, a few places stand out from the pack for their great value. The oddly named Paris London New York cinema in Yuen Long is the city’s cheapest at $4.50 (HK$35) for a regular ticket. Closer to town, Mongkok’s Dynasty Theatre charges a very reasonable $5.70 (HK$45) — and as a bonus, you’ll get to enjoy the most spacious cinema in town, with more than 900 seats per screen.

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Arthouse and indie flicks

The Broadway Cinematheque has been a destination for discerning filmgoers since it opened in 1996 with a focus on independent movies from around the world. In recent years, more commercial films have been thrown into the mix, but the Cinematheque is still the most reliable place to see something you might not catch anywhere else. The weekly Sunday review of international cinema is especially worth seeking out.

Not far away, the Grand Cinema in West Kowloon has also been attracting its share of film lovers. Venus Wong, the general manager of Ying e Chi, a non-profit group dedicated to promoting independent film, says that it has become her favorite commercial cinema in Hong Kong. “There is usually something I would like to see, sometimes alternative and sometimes stupid movies for a laugh,” she says. The Grand’s 12 screens mean there’s always room for off-beat movies and film festivals, several of which take place at the Grand.

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Luxurious movie-going

The AMC Pacific Place which features big leather seats — “the best seats around,” says Time Out film critic Edmund Lee — and a bar that serves beer and wine at reasonable prices.

Retro cinema

The closing of the Fanling Theatre took away Hong Kong’s last remaining 1950s movie house, and a jewel of a cinema at that. So where’s a lover of old-fashioned movie-watching to go? Amy Chin, a veteran film producer who has worked on dozens of Hong Kong dramas and comedies, is fond of the Grand Ocean Cinema, a 1960s-era relic of the days when movie theaters had one big screen and more than a thousand seats. “I like big theatres and there’s nowhere else with that kind of atmosphere anymore.” Unfortunately, its balcony was removed by renovations in the 1990s, which also stripped the cinema of any retro charm is might have had.

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Films for real cinephiles

Good film does not necessarily make for a good bottom line, so when Hong Kong’s commercial cinemas falter, non-profit film organizations step in to help. The Hong Kong Film Archive have played host to “From Novel to Film,” a series of fortnightly screenings of movies picked by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society, including the classic “Death in Venice” and Martin Scorcese’s “The Age of Innocence.”

The Arts Centre, meanwhile, makes good use of the subterranean Agnès b. Cinema to show films from some of the world’s best filmmakers.

Even more exciting is Club YEC. Every second Friday, Ying e Chi invites independent Hong Kong filmmakers to screen their films in its small Wan Chai studio. The limited space means that you can bet on an intimate post-screening discussion. “Some audience members said it reminds them of the good old days when Hong Kong was still having film society screenings, which gathered a lot of film critics and lovers,” says Wong.

Christopher DeWolf is a writer and photographer based in Hong Kong.

Editor’s note: This article was previously published in 2010. It was reformatted and republished in 2017.

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