One of Hong Kong exhibitor UA Cinemas’ flagship multiplexes closed its doors yesterday (Jan 31) after losing its rental lease on the ground floor of the busy Times Square shopping mall.

Its understood that Lark International Group, which operated the cinema, was outbid on the lease by a luxury brand retailer.

Hong Kong is currently in the midst of a property boom which is sending commercial rents soaring to record levels. At the same time, luxury brand retailers are flourishing due to an influx of big-spending mainland Chinese tourists.

The UA Cinemas site, in the heart of the busy Causeway Bay shopping district, was shut down after 18 years of operation. On its last day, it offered tickets at a symbolic pre-sale discount price of HK$18 (US$2.3). Shoppers and cinema-goers held a candle-lit vigil at the Times Square mall to say goodbye to the cinema.

A spokesman for Times Square told local press that the top two floors of the mall have been reserved for a new cinema, but it was still under discussion whether UA Cinemas would move in or not.

Despite a few high-profile cinema openings in recent years, Hong Kong exhibitors are finding it increasingly difficult to hang on to prime locations in major shopping areas. Some circuits are now calling for an addition to commercial land-use zoning regulations which would ensure a cinema in all districts.

In addition, the Hong Kong Film Development Council (HKFDC) is commissioning a report to review the situation.