The Chin Men Theater in southern Taiwan’s Tainan is bringing a little bit of the spectacle and style of the classic movie-going experience into the modern age. The three-story theater is a favorite among the city’s residents, even though it mostly plays second-run films that have recently left the area’s big theater chains.
Hand-painted posters have a storied history in most cinematic traditions outside the US: from the lurid, NSFW posters of ‘80s and ‘90s Ghana, to the gorgeous, nearly three-dimensional collectibles of 1920s Bollywood, to the flour sack kung fu posters of rural China. A Tainan travel guide praises the theater for embracing an aesthetic reminiscent of "theaters in Myanmar, rural China and other places where even skilled labor is cheaper than billboard-sized posters." The sentiment was echoed by a city resident who in 2013 told The New York Post, "I take my children here so they can experience the old movie theater atmosphere. Of course, there are other movie theaters with better interior designs, but the tickets are more expensive and there is no sentimental feeling about it."
The artworks are so popular that Yan has started teaching weekend painting classes. I don’t know about you, but I would pay serious cash to have any one of these Bradley Cooper portraits hanging in my living room. And I would sell a kidney specifically for second-from-the-left Bradley.
Last summer, the theater held a contest in which local kids could submit poster designs for Pitch Perfect 2, Penguins of Madagascar, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron. All of the entries were displayed in the theater lobby and the winning entry (a Pitch Perfect 2 poster) was blown up to serve as the film’s main billboard (pictured in the main image above).
Aside from its artistic prowess, the Chin Men theater has another claim to fame: it was once the weekend haunt of a teenage Ang Lee, and often shows the famed director’s movies for free.
This place sounds substantially nicer than the offering in my neighborhood — the dilapidated trash pile known as the Pavilion Theater, which is about one stiff wind away from collapsing into Prospect Park and unleashing at least 12 new invasive species of insect. If you ever find yourself in Tainan during fall prestige film season, please email me a photo of my boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal’s enormous oil-painted face.