There are three major cinema operators in Singapore, namely Shaw, Golden Village (GV) and Cathay. Most blockbuster releases are in line with Asian release dates, and show times can be easily viewed online or in daily papers. Many of the cinema complexes are beautifully modern, and a few top-tier cinemas offer plush reclining seats and even cocktail service. As English is the main language spoken, most movies shown are English titles. Some cinemas run Chinese subtitles, however. Many cinemas also show Chinese, Malay, and Korean films, which are often shown with English and Chinese subtitles. The individual operators will state on their websites whether subtitles are included.
Censorship of films is controlled by Media Development Authority of Singapore. Censorship has historically been strict by international standards, although the introduction of the “R-21” rating now allows most major Hollywood features to be shown in Singapore after cuts. Released films are presented to the Board of Film Censors (BFC) which then rates films for audiences as follows:
- G (General) – Everyone
- PG (Parental guidance) – Everyone, advisable with an accompanying adult
- NC16 (not for children under 16) – For above 16s, contains partial nudity and little violence
- M18 (mature 18) – For above 18s, contains partial nudity(frontal), moderate violence and may contain religious issues
- R21 (restricted 21) – For above 21s, contains nudity (sex scenes), violence, and may contain religious issues
- Banned – Contains issues that cause controversy in Singapore
Any outright denigration of race or religion, matters that threaten national interest, or depictions of pornographic, offensive or deviant sexual activities are banned.
Tickets can all be booked in advance with all three operators online or over the telephone. Of the three operators, Cathay’s cinemas usually stand out due to their exclusive showing of internationally acclaimed films (usually featured in film festivals) that are not shown in other cinemas. Cathay features a better food bar offering a wider selection of food, including fresh cooked food delivered to you in the cinema. Golden Village has its own unique selling point, as it offers the GV “Gold Class” cinemas, which are fitted with wide comfortable sofas, tables and exclusive food and beverages at a premium price. Cinemas can be easily found in most large neighborhood shopping centers in Singapore, and many expatriates patronize the cinemas at Great World City, Vivo City, Cathay Picturehouse, and Shaw Centre.
- Golden Village (GV): Cinemas at Vivocity, Great World City Shopping centre, Plaza Singapura, Marina Square, Junction 8, Tampines Mall, Jurong Point, Yishun Central, Tiong Bahru Plaza
- Cathay: Cineleisure Building, Cathay The Picturehouse, Downtown East
- Shaw: Century Square Shopping Centre, Lido at Shaw House, Bugis Junction, Lot 1 Shopper’s Mall, Shaw Plaza at Balestier, Shaw Leisure Gallery at Shaw Towers
Prices for all three cinemas are generally the same. Prices are $8.50 for Mon to Thur and Fri before 5pm, and $10.00 for Fri and eve of public holidays after 5pm and Sat, Sun and all public holidays.
There are many DVD rental chains in Singapore; those operated as family businesses are most common and can be found in all heartland neighborhoods.
The most popular choice for video rental are the delivery and mail order systems. For delivery, the companies usually arrive within 3 hours and your orders can be made via phone call. For mail order, orders are usually taken online and delivered via mail, which arrives in 1-2 days. This revolutionary system has proven immensely popular, and the price plans are affordable as well, with unlimited rentals.
Currently, Hollywoodclicks offers the best prices for online rentals, at just S$24 monthly for unlimited rental (the cheapest plan). HomePal is a close competitor with slightly pricier plans. 7 Frames and Videoezy delivers much faster at just 3 hrs compared to Hollywoodclicks and HomePal’s system of mail delivering. However, the reduced delivery time comes at a price. The cost of 1 disc ranges from $4-$6 and delivery fee can be from $2 to $5 per shipment.
Major vendors include:
- That CD Shop
Pacific Plaza #02-15 Tel: +65-6238 6720
Great World City #B1-01 Tel: +65-6738 0894
Raffles City #B1-87/88 Tel: +65-6336 5885
Marina Bay Sands #B2-43/44 (together with High Society) Tel: +65-6688 7511 (That CD Shop) Tel:+65-6688 7522 (High Society)
- HMV at 1 Raffles Link.
Pirated videos are not tolerated in Singapore, so you won’t find the cheap copied videos found elsewhere in Asia.
Opera, Theatre, Ballet and the Fine Arts
Singapore brings performing arts shows of international renown to its beautiful Esplanade and Victoria Theatres, amongst other performing arts venues. Furthermore, the city hosts a number of fantastic arts festivals throughout the year. Tickets for internationally-renowned performers go quickly, so it is advisable to book tickets far in advance.
- Esplanade, Theatres on the Bay: Esplanade is the art icon of Singapore. Its usage and scale of design is similar to that of the Sydney Opera house. Situated at Marina Bay overlooking the lagoon, it is a fantastic sight. Designed with much aplomb and discussion in the shape of durian shells, it has since become a national icon of which Singaporeans are immensely proud. Esplanade is the heart of the city’s art scene, with an impressive weekly schedule of plays, concerts and other performances in its many venues. Open-air and free concerts are often available outside the Esplanade for aspiring artists to practice their art, and these are hugely entertaining and popular. 1 Esplanade Drive, Tel: 6828 8377.
- Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT): Singapore Repertory Theatre’s (SRT) goal is to provide a platform for Asian artists both on and off stage and to give Singaporeans and visitors the opportunity to experience Broadway, the West End and the richness of Singaporean culture. SRT has staged many famous productions, including Forbidden City, The Glass Menagerie and Hamlet. Their productions are either staged at Esplanade or at the DBS Arts centre. Tel: +65 6221 5585.
- Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT): The biggest and most reputable dance company in Singapore produces many accomplished dancers from its school. It also has 6 performance seasons for its dancers to hone their skills and for the audience to take a peek into the world of dance. It does not have its own performance venue; therefore it usually holds its performances at the Esplanade, Fort Canning Park, DBS Arts Centre, the NUS University cultural centre or Victoria Theatre. Tel: 6338 0611.
- Victoria Concert Hall: Built in 1901 in memory of Queen Victoria, it was previously known as Victoria Memorial Hall. Completed in 1905, it is Singapore’s oldest theatre and performing arts venue. It is also home to the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO). Being the nation’s oldest theatre and performing arts venue, it has greeted world famous artists and musicians and also oversaw the development of many young, aspiring artists. 11 Empress Place S 179558, Tel: 6333 0041. The hall is currently closed for major renovations but will reopen in 2013.
- Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO): The SSO was born in 1979, with aims to enrich the local cultural scene and provide a bridge between the musical traditions of Asia and the West. The SSO has performed internationally in many cities, gathering a good deal of experience for its members, transforming itself into a truly professional music entity. In Singapore, it often stages performances at the Esplanade, occasionally at Victoria Theatre and some open performances in places like Botanic gardens, 11 Empress Place, Victoria Concert Hall, Tel: 6338 1230.
Two new casinos have recently opened in Singapore, The Marina Bay Sands and the Resorts World Sentosa. Both of which offer gaming tables as well as a wide range of shops, entertainment shows and shopping attractions. Locals and permanent residents are required to pay $100 SGD to enter the casinos, while expats with temporary work visas and employment passes can enter free of charge provided that they show their employment pass or passport.
For an events calendar and other news and going ons, visit What’s Happening Singapore, or Singapore’s main ticketing agent, Sistic, which also offers a helpful electronic newsletter service. Sistic tickets must be purchased online at least the day before the performance, and tickets to well-known acts often sell out. Thus, it is best to purchase well ahead of time.
While there are no dedicated magazines or newspapers for arts events, newspapers do cover special events irregularly. Also, arts events are usually highly publicized on papers, billboards, posters, radio and TV. Most such events allow buying tickets on-site.