ABOUT SHAW   /   Malaysia, Post War
Shaw Cinemas, Malaysia, Post War (1945-1970)
Shaw Cinemas, Malaysia, Post War (1945-1970)

Shaw management meeting: Top (from left) Gopi (stenographer), Lee Kee Yin (Chin Kim Fook's secretary), John Foo, PS Chia. Bottom (from left) Chin Kim Fook, Chow Deh Kong, Chin Kim Meng, Ng Chong Fatt, Run Run Shaw and Runme Shaw

Distribution of films under the Shaw banner was the task of the film distribution department. This was done out of Singapore until 1965, when a separate distribution office was established in Petaling Jaya to service the chain of independent theatres in Malaysia. These independents, most of which were contracted to play only Shaw distributed films, numbered 193 by the mid sixties.

Vee Kong, who headed both distribution offices in Singapore and Malaysia, had to shuttle between them weekly.

The Petaling Jaya office served also as a storage and shipping facility for both Shaw and independent theatres in Malaysia. Shipping out a film was called routing. From the film storage facilty, a fleet of Shaw vans travelled as far north as Kangar in Malaysia. Running the vans was a logistical nightmare due to the remote locations of many screenings (including plantations) and the tight delivery schedules.

Films were booked out of Singapore for the Federation Theatres.

These were done by the same film bookers as for the Singapore circuit under Mr P.S. Chia. For Borneo and Brunei, draft bookings would be sent by Mr Chin Kee Meng from Shaw's Kuching office to Mr P.S. Chia for approval. Following that, Borneo and Brunei shipping schedules would be sent out to the Kuching office. From the mid-70s, booking responsibilities shifted to Mr Y.T. Kwan and Mr Mak Kai Seng. This would eventually come under the charge of Mr Harold Shaw, the son of Run Run.

Crowds in Lido, Kota Bharu, watching 'Saudagar Minyak Urat' 1959

Crowds in Jubilee Park, Ipoh 1966

Like the Singapore circuit, the Federation circuit were divided into three categories : The key town halls were generally the first run halls and they were KL, Ipoh and Penang; the sub-key town halls were the second run halls and they were Malacca, Seremban, Johore, Taiping and Klang; the rest of the halls were designated third run halls.

Before the first run Federation halls get their release, they would still have to wait for at least the first run in Singapore to end before they get their 'recycled' prints and materials. Simultaneous release with Singapore did not happen in Malaysia until the advent of video piracy when films were forced to run ahead of the pirates.

When that happened, the release cost of a film escalated as more prints were needed.

Black marketeers were also a bane to Malaysian exhibition business. Touts would snap up tickets during the release of a popular show and then resell them at up to three times the price. A letter of complaint dated 24th August 1954 to the Capitol Theatre, Trenggannu read:

"Whenever I come to see the Malay Film at the Capitol Theatre, Kuala Trengganu, everytime the tickets are sold in Black Market specially reserved for the reserve tickets. This black marketing usually occur on the first and second night of the Malay Film show."

A letter regarding ticket touts, 1954

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