The 26-year-old Chinachem Golden Plaza Cinema in Tsim Sha Tsui East - a favourite haunt of late Chinachem chief Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum - closed yesterday to make way for shops.
With the closure came another twist in the saga surrounding the conglomerate. The head of its entertainment division said the decision was blowback from top management after he went to police with allegations about Chinachem.
The cinema, which pioneered 1am and 3am screenings in Hong Kong, had lost several million dollars over the past four years, Chinachem Group chief operating officer David Parker said.
"The area has changed and there are more cinemas posing competition," Parker said. Renting the space - at 77 Mody Road - to retailers would be more profitable, he said.
But group entertainment head Ringo Wong Lai-chuen - formerly Wang's assistant - said the cinema's books had shown a profit. The closure was reprisal from top management after he took allegations of perversions of justice by Chinachem officers to police, he said.
"This is because we and some other employees in the entertainment department reported illegalities to authorities," he said.
Parker disagreed, saying the closure was a business decision.
Twenty-four staff members, some of whom had worked at the cinema since it opened in 1987, will receive two months' pay for each year of service.
Manager Lee Chau-sang said they had not received any prior notice. "We were asked to sign the [dismissal] letter as soon as we came to work today. No explanation was given."
There are three houses in the cinema, with a total capacity of more than 800. After Wang died in 2007, it put on a puppet show telling the love story of her and her late husband Teddy Wang Teh-huei.
Movie-goer Andrew Yiu Ying-cheung, who had planned to watch a film last night, said he was surprised by the news. "I used to come here because it screened late-night movies."