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Theatre operator shaves off head as last single-screen shuts in Seoul

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MUMBAI: The only surviving single-screen theatre in Seoul, Seodaemun Art Hall, is soon to be knocked down and replaced by a hotel. As a parting shot, the cinema hall played its final film, the Italian classic The Bicycle Thief, yesterday. The moment was so emotional for the theatre operator that she publicly shaved her head in frustration.

"My heart is aching because I have to let (the theatre) go like this," Kim Eun-ju, 39, the head of theatre operator Hollywood Classic, reportedly said before having her head shaved.

The theatre, which opened in 1964, had become a place where mostly elderly moviegoers gathered regularly to watch classic Hollywood and South Korean films and go back in time and indulge in nostalgia.

As huge multiplexes made it hard to compete financially, the cinema hall played up the one thing the newer theatres could never match - its age. But the theatre‘s attempt to keep business alive based on that shared joy of nostalgia and a sense of community among its elderly patrons came to an end on Wednesday.

The building venerates Hollywood royalty, with a hand-painted advertising board over the theater and big photos of American movie stars like Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor hanging on the walls.

Seoul officials approved plans to demolish the theatre way back in August last year to build a high-rise hotel that, according to them, would create jobs and resolve a shortage of hotel rooms for foreign tourists.

The theater‘s end has been hard to take for many of the workers and people who regularly watched movies here, hundreds of whom came Wednesday to see Italian director Vittorio De Sica‘s 1948 classic.

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