Reprieve hope for Sunbeam Theatre

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 August, 2005, 12:00am

The Sunbeam Theatre, the only venue for Cantonese opera in Hong Kong, could be saved from closure this month as its landlord considers reversing his decision to force it to leave its home in North Point.

Wong Kow, a former standing committee member of Guangdong People's Political Consultative Conference, said Francis Law, a family friend and executive director of Toyo Mall, which owns the property, had promised he would allow the theatre to remain.

Mr Wong said yesterday that Mr Law had agreed to his request when they met last Sunday.

'I told him to make some contribution to society and to keep the local culture alive so that people in the trade won't lose their jobs,' he said. 'I praised his family as already having so much money and that this was his chance to pay back society. He was very willing to accept ... He shook my hand and agreed to do it.'

However, Mr Law said through his secretary that the matter had not been settled yet. But he did not reject Mr Wong's claim that he had made the promise.

The theatre was scheduled to close after 33 years at the end of this month. The landlord wants to double the rent on the King's Road premises to $400,000, and reportedly turn the two-storey theatre into a shopping mall.

Theatre manager Yip Man-tak has been in hospital and could not comment. A staff member at the theatre said he did not know whether there had been a change of plan. The last show is scheduled for August 27.

Chan Kim-sing, chairwoman of the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong, said she welcomed Mr Law's promise and hoped that he would see it through.

'This would definitely be a good thing but frankly, the landlord needs to contact Sunbeam before we know if it is going to happen.'

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department has been working on turning the government-owned Ko Shan Theatre in Hunghom into an exclusive Cantonese opera venue. There are also proposals to turn the Yau Ma Tei Theatre into a venue for amateur opera troupes.