Visiting REX KL – The Iconic Cinema Turned Creative Space In Kuala Lumpur

What do you do with a once iconic cinema that eventually turned into an abandoned eyesore in the middle of Kuala Lumpur? You give it a new lease of life – by turning it into a creative space for events and entrepreneurs.

Back in the 1970s, Rex Theatre, located close to KL’s Chinatown, was THE place to be. It operated for years before shutting down in the early 2000s, as people flocked to newer cinemas in glitzy malls, and ‘classic’ theatres, which did not have the facilities and technology to match, lost their appeal. The Rex Theatre was used as a backpacker’s hostel, low-cost housing and even an entertainment outlet, but the crumbling building was not well maintained, attracting drug users and unsavoury characters into its disused halls.

The old Rex Theatre. Image via Says.com and https://forum.lowyat.net/topic/3313616/all

It would have been easy to just bulldoze it down and build something new. After all, the old theatre was sitting on prime land that would be perfect for a shiny office building, another mall or whatnot. Instead, a project to revive the theatre, spearheaded by a group of architects, was put into motion, and REXKL opened its doors earlier this year as a space where entrepreneurs, small businesses and artists could meet, share and thrive.

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Went to check out the place over the long Malaysia Day weekend. Vestiges of its days as a cinema remain, such as the old fashioned tiled floors and signages, giving the space an air of nostalgia, while neon lights added to the retro vibe. On the ground floor, which sported an open layout, was a chic bar called Modern Madness Beer, an old-school barbershop and a cafe.

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Malaysia Day bazaar, with trendy outfits and flea market-esque clothing on sale.

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Hand made pottery

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Store selling various knick-knacks and curios, from camp equipment to traditional games

 

 

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We also bought a bottle of sugarcane tuak, a traditional fermented rice wine drink commonly enjoyed by the people of Sarawak. Although no sugar was added, the concoction was naturally sweet, with an alcohol level of about 10 percent.

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Moving on to the first floor, there were shops selling beautiful arts and crafts, such as bowls, handwoven items, bags, jewellery and souvenirs.

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A store selling items many of us growing up in the 1990s and before would recognise – tiffin carriers for food, vinyls, casettes, snow globes (do people still buy them these days?), paper weights, pen holders, and more.

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Spot Mr Pricklepants!

 

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Up on the second floor, we met Mr Lam Ching Fu, author of the book My Journey By Bus, in which he documents his journeys by bus around several states in Northern Peninsular Malaysia. The book is a fascinating insight into the characters he meets and his observations of the towns and places he visited, many of which are off the beaten path. The book is available in Chinese and English.

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A collection of Lam’s beautiful photos, mostly depicting scenes in small towns

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The bus tickets Lam accumulated on his journey

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Also on the second floor was the main theatre which has now been converted into an events/concert space. The hall was intentionally left looking unfinished, with a massive brick wall, age-darkened concrete and exposed skylights to give it that industrial, ‘abandoned’ vibe. REX KL regularly hosts bloc parties and music shows in this space, so visitors can keep updated via their Facebook Page. 

REX KL 

Jalan Sultan, 55000 Kuala Lumpur

Open Tuesdays to Sundays, 10 AM – late

Rumah Attap Library & Collective @ The Zhongshan Building, Kuala Lumpur

Hey guys! I recently worked on a story on unique libraries in Kuala Lumpur – which included a Japanese-themed one and a children’s library in a refurbished wooden village house. Being a book lover, it was awesome to be able to share their stories and make sure they got the attention they deserved.

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One of the libraries I went to was the Rumah Attap Library & Collective at The Zhongshan Building in Kuala Lumpur. When N came visiting last year, I took him to visit the building, but we seemed to have missed the library as it is tucked in a quiet corner on the 3rd floor.

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Like many of the tenants at Zhongshan, it’s hard to determine what exactly lies behind each unit’s closed doors – until you knock and take a peek inside. In Rumah Attap’s case, visitors will be welcomed by various posters of upcoming art events, shows and festivals on the walls.

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While it’s not very large, the space is brightly lit and roomy, with plenty of sunshine filtering in. With a cosy couch in a corner and various paraphernalia lining one side of the wall, it feels more like someone’s apartment than it does a library.One of the most stunning fixtures in the library is the wall of books on wooden shelves. The library has over 3,000 books, mostly on art, culture, philosophy and sociology in the Chinese language, and a selection of English and Malay works as well.

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Started in 2017, the library came about as a collaboration between three local arts and culture organisations, namely Amateur, In Between Cultura and Au Sow Yee Studio. It was decided that a physical space was needed for the orgs to host their programmes, such as book readings, film screenings and cultural talks – and when Zhongshan called for tenants to fill up its units, the library was born.

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Brochures for upcoming events and activities.

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Since the space is run by volunteers, it is only open on weekends. They regularly host programmes such as talks by scholars and book reading sessions, so keep updated on their Facebook page.

RUMAH ATTAP LIBRARY AND COLLECTIVE 

84c, Jalan Rotan, Kampung Attap, 50460, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

**While you’re around the area: check out beautiful graffiti art on the walls of the adjacent building. 

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