This large, excellently preserved Japanese-era wooden structure actually got its start as a rice mill. The mill was founded by owner Huang Zhi during the Japanese occupation. Huang was awarded the rice concession for the Yanshui area from the Japanese colonial government. This made him a wealthy man, and the rice mill was a major complex with several large structures. The building that houses the theater today was originally a storage warehouse in the mill complex.
Huang used his position to develop connections with both Japanese officials and local merchants. Business faltered during World War II, and when the Japanese ceded Taiwan to Chinese control at the end of the war, Huang lost his concession.
Instead of closing down, the intrepid entrepreneur transformed the old warehouse into Yanshui’s first movie theater in 1945. This was no small feat in the aftermath of war, but Huang used his contacts to import projectors from Japan and somehow managed to get a screen and access to films from all over the world. Huang even compensated for the flat floor of the warehouse by developing cedarwood seating in graduated heights, so that the front rows were low to the ground while the back rows were quite a bit higher, making it easy for patrons to view the films.
The new theater served as a combination film and live performance venue, and before long, it was a thriving center of activity in Yanshui and Huang was once again hosting celebrities, politicians, and other local luminaries.
Yongcheng Theater remained active until the year 2000, when it was finally shuttered. In 2008, the Tainan City Government stepped in to save the building. The renovated theater now functions as a combination film museum and theater/performance venue. Film and camera buffs will enjoy the old filmmaking and projector equipment on display. On weekends, the theater offers movies and drama performances. This beautiful example of large-scale wooden architecture with its period film equipment, original cypress seating, and old movie posters is well worth a visit.
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No. 21, Guogang, Yanshui Dist., Tainan City 73742, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
+886 6 6522198