Typical Movie Experience in Singapore

BradleyLife in Singapore13 Comments

Going to the movies in Singapore can be an ugly experience if you’re not prepared for it.  I’ve often been told by Singaporeans that this is a small island and there isn’t much to do.  I’m not sure I can agree with that, since there seems to be quite a lot to do here.  There’s definitely more to do than in most places I’ve lived, but I suppose it’s a matter of perspective. Regardless, I think that mentality is partially why going to the movies has become so popular here.  More so than what I’ve come to expect anyway. Every movie is packed, even the bad ones.

The first thing you should know about going to the movies in Singapore is that you HAVE to book your seats in advance.  That’s not something I was used to, coming from the US.  There, it’s possible to book your seats in advance through the internet if you want to, but it’s often not necessary.  In some cases, there is no internet booking and you just have to show up early enough to get a ticket before the movie you want to see is sold out.  In Singapore, even days after a movie has been out, if you wait til the last minute and try to get your tickets at the theater you’re likely to be disappointed.  Movie theaters here fill up fast, often leaving only the front two or three rows open to latecomers.  I’ve sat through a movie in the 3rd row before, and it was a very unpleasant experience that left me with a stiff neck.

So, booking online is a must. All of the major theater chains here offer the service and to get really good seats, you should try to book at least a day and a half or two days in advance. Ya, crazy right? That’s especially true if you want to book a ticket for a Friday or Saturday night. For example, about six hours ago (Thursday night at about 8pm) I booked tickets for tomorrow afternoon for a 4:40 showing. Half of the seats were already taken. Ah, and if you haven’t guessed, tickets are booked on a selected seat basis, whereas in the US it’s a first-come first-served when it comes to getting the best seats, regardless of when you bought your ticket.

An example of the seat selection screen for Cathay.  Notice the timer.  If you don’t finish in time the seats become available for someone else to book.  Also, keep in mind that this screen cap was taken 18.5 hours before the movie starts.  The blue Xs are occupied seats.

An example of the Cathay booking confirmation screen.

A friend of mine in Italy asked me what sorts of things you can expect to find at the refreshment stands in a Singapore movie theater, and in this regard things are basically the same as you would find in the US. You’ve got popcorn (sweet and salted), nachos, soda and other drinks and candies. I think there are hotdogs too. This is a bit off-topic, but I was amused to find out from Rowena that in theaters in Italy you can usually find beer at the refreshment stands. That’s an interesting example of cultural influence.

Once you get your refreshments and present your tickets you can head to the theater hall and find your seats.  You would think that at this point everything would go about the same right?  Well, sure, for the most part it does.  You sit down and get to see some previews, the admonition to turn off your cell phone ringers, and the warning that video recording is illegal.  But, interspersed with those previews and warnings are many, many commercials.  Half the time they’re local commercials for small businesses and they’re really not that great.  Also, there are a LOT of them.  I mentioned that right?  If your ticket says your movie starts at 4:30 PM, you can expect the actual film to not start until roughly 4:50 PM or a few minutes later.  I can understand sitting through a few previews and maybe a Coke or Sprite ad, but not 20+ minutes of the stuff.  So, when we go to the movies we tend to walk in a few minutes late, or we mess with our cell phones while waiting for the actual film to start.

After that it’s smooth sailing.

Just some other, dry info:  Tickets are usually 8.50 to 10 SGD apiece and refreshments are high as well, though that’s not anything new for most people.  For two people going to the movies and getting refreshments you can expect to spend 35 to 40 bucks.

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13 Comments on "Typical Movie Experience in Singapore"

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Brad Farless

Thanks for shedding some light TC. Now I have a better idea of why people are so noisy in the theaters here. Acceptable movie theater behavior here has always been wild, and it's only now lining up with common Western standards of proper movie-house conduct.

Pyjamas though? That is really strange. It's almost as though they saw it as an extension of their homes. It would certainly be something worth experiencing just once, but I guess those days are long gone.

Brad Farless

Thanks for shedding some light TC. Now I have a better idea of why people are so noisy in the theaters here. Acceptable movie theater behavior here has always been wild, and it's only now lining up with common Western standards of proper movie-house conduct.

Pyjamas though? That is really strange. It's almost as though they saw it as an extension of their homes. It would certainly be something worth experiencing just once, but I guess those days are long gone.

TC

You should have been here in the 70s. People were going to the movies in pyjamas and nightgowns, peanuts all over the floor, fans screaming and whistling, come to think of it, I MISS those good ole days! :))

Brad Farless

@rinaz: Well, where I spent my high school years, the town had two small malls and a less than a handful of parks, all of which were small. As in you can see from one side to the other with ease. We found things to do there, so I'm also surprised people complain there's nothing to do here.

rinaz

Personally I think that there are heaps of things to do in Singapore. Unfortunately there are far too many unimaginative Singaporeans who moan at having nothing to do but watch movies 😛

Brad Farless

@Rowena: Ya, it's kind of a pain in the butt. I suppose if I were just here as a tourist I wouldn't bother with movie theaters either, unless there was some odd Asian film playing that you just knew would never make it to Europe. That might be worthwhile.

Thanks for the link. I'll check out that list, and as for link-backs… but of course! You've got a great blog!

Brad Farless

@Jerine I actually like the booking by seat method better than the way it's done in the US. Here in Singapore you don't have to rush to the theater, stand in line for an hour and then bum rush your way into the theater to get a good seat. You just reserve your seat and then you can show up at a more convenient time.

Rowena...

Booking seats in advance? Yow. Looking at the screen photo I almost felt like there should be an option for what sort of meal you'd like for your flight.

Great post, but I think if I ever find myself in Singapore, I'll be hanging around the food stands. Period. Interesting too that at Lonely Planet's Singapore page, 79 items are listed for sights to see. Check it, and see if you've been to any of those places.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/singapore/singapore-city/sights

Thanks for the linkback!

Jerine

its the other way round for me. when i came to aussie i got a shock that no one books the ticket. i get second shock that its free seating. and lastly, there's hardly anyone in the cinema.

Brad Farless

That would be an interesting topic, but it's rather broad. It would be hard to just do a 1 vs 1 on that.

I'm starting to try to think of ideas that are outside the box a bit, but I still want to find ways to tie it into my everyday life. I don't want this to turn into some thesis paper blog or preachy blog.

Brad Farless

Your story about cheap tickets in Malaysia reminds me of a particular theater in Queens, in New York City. My mom likes to go there because they show the new movies and it's a cheaper rate. I think only 6 bucks compared to the usual 11 or so.

MKL

Your mum is cool. You should write a post about American and Asian mums 😛

MKL

I remember in Penang (Malovelaysia) every wednesday they had tickets for 6rm, which is about 2-3SGD. That's cheap! Been going to two movies sometimes, if I was bored. In that time in Penang I went to so many movies like never before. I miss that time… I been in the movies in Singapore as well, not so many times, but it was like you said. It was in 2005 and at that time we bought tickets in advance, the online booking was not so common back then.

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