A Return To Form
Jennifer Choo | 08 Sep 2017 00:00
Back to its former glory.

In pre-television days, going to the cinema was an event, not to mention a portal to worlds beyond. In Penang, the most glorious of them all was the Majestic Theatre, a popular spot that still lives fondly in the memory of generations of Penangites.

Originally built to be a live theatre, the colonial building was named in honour of the then British sovereign, King George V. Majestic Theatre was the first cinema to show sound films.

For 50 years, it was a popular venue for dating couples and kung-fu fans as Chinese movies by the Shaw Brothers was the main draw. The area where Majestic is located was known then as the West End of George Town, thanks to the lively venues lining the street. By the time 1980s rolled around, many of the buildings were either torn down or converted into furniture stores and smoky pool halls.

When Jonathan Foo, CEO of 1919 Global, first laid eyes on the building, it was in a deplorable state. But Foo, who has successfully restored and now operates the nostalgic-laden Loke Thye Kee restaurant and the more contemporary Loke Thye Kee Residences boutique hotel, was not deterred.

He acquired Majestic Theatre and 12 adjoining shophouses on Jalan Phee Choon. This happened before George Town was admitted into the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing because Foo had an ambitious vision of building an eco-system within the block of properties where people would live, work and play again.

“With Majestic itself, many ideas were floated in the planning stage, but eventually it was the Grand Old Dame that told us what to do. She was originally built to offer an escape through entertainment so we decided to restore it into George Town’s first real heritage event venue for entertainment, banquets and seminars.”


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