Monday November 30, 2009
By Scott Rosenburg
This writer always gets a warm, cuddly feeling when a business colleague is recognized for work well done, especially when the award is overdue.
Irving Chee Huan Tong, general manager of Golden Screen Cinemas Sdn Bhd (GSC), the leading cinema chain in Malaysia, is the very deserving winner of CineAsia 2009’s “Exhibitor of the Year” Award. He has been overseeing the operations of GSC since 1992 and with his team initiated great innovations for the circuit, transforming small standalone cinemas into some of the most modern multiplexes in all of Asia today.
Chee launched the circuit’s new era when he opened GSC Mid Valley in Kuala Lumpur in 1999. With 18 screens, it was then the largest multiplex in Asia. This location also introduced to Malaysia the first Gold Class and art-house screens with e-cinema projection.
In 2007, GSC opened Malaysia’s first premier boutique cinema, GSC Signature in The Gardens, Mid Valley, Kuala Lumpur. GSC Signature offers two Gold Class and five Premier Class screens complemented by three food-and-beverage outlets. This is the only Malaysian location where all auditoriums offer twin-seating with spacious legroom. GSC also introduced to Malaysian cinemas online ticketing and digital 3D projection.
Born in Malacca, Chee moved early on with his family to Kuala Lumpur, where his father, a civil officer with the National Survey Department, was based. Chee was educated at the renowned Victoria Institution, one of the top schools in Malaysia.
After graduation, Chee joined the accounting firm of Coopers & Lybrand, where he attained his Certified Public Accountant qualifications. He started his career in the cinema industry in 1985 as an accountant with the Shaw Brothers (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, a pioneer in the Asian film industry.
In 2000, Chee was promoted to general manager of Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC), the merged company of Golden Communications and Cathay Organization. Earlier GSC’s holding company, PPB Group, joined with Golden Harvest of Hong Kong to operate cinemas leased from Shaw Brothers through Golden Communications. Cathay Organization's cinemas had also been acquired by PPB.
Chee serves as the secretary of the Malaysian Association of Film Exhibitors and is a committee member of the Compulsory Screening Committee which sets release dates for local Malaysian movies. In addition, he sits on the board of directors of several companies involved in family entertainment and the IT business under the Kuok Group in Malaysia.
Behind every great man is a loving family, and Irving Chee is very much the family man. Married 24 years to Connie Hoh, he has three children. The eldest, Nicole, is presently pursuing a law degree with the local affiliate campus for the University of London. Sean Chee is in high school and his sister Beverly is in junior high.
Upon hearing of his award, Chee said, "I am humbled to be recognized by CineAsia and the industry, but the real credit goes to the dedicated GSC team, and more importantly the increasing movie fans in Malaysia which enabled GSC to be where we are today.
"I would also like to share this award with my fellow Malaysian exhibitors and distributors as we pool our resources to push the boundaries and get more people into the cinemas with innovative ideas and marketing promotions. Despite the omnipresent piracy threats and the recent challenging economy situation, the Malaysian cinema industry continues to post a strong growth since the last Asian financial crisis. This award will inspire us to continue our efforts to provide total movie entertainment for our Malaysian audience."
Irving Chee has been instrumental in instituting many changes in the way movies are exhibited in Malaysia. His notable accomplishments include winning the Malaysian Institute of Architects’ 2009 Award for Best Interior Design (Entertainment Category) for the 13-screen GSC Paviliion in Kuala Lumpur; the establishment of e-payment ticketing at two of GSC's theatres; and the launch of a co-branded credit card, the GSC-EON Bank card.
"Our cinemas are in line with cinemas gradually moving into incorporating lifestyle aspects, where it’s not just about watching movies,” Chee observes. “We want people to have more than just a moviegoing experience. As the leading cinema exhibitor, we always strive to bring movie fans the latest improvements in cinema technologies, facilities and services for the best cinema experience."
"Every GSC cinema boasts a slightly different design concept that distinguishes it from the rest,” he continues. “With comfortable seats, excellent sound and good projection, and food and drinks at an arm’s length, the cinema-going experience remains one of the favorite pastimes. Collectively, GSC is continuing to attract more customers. One of the things we’ve also noticed is that our customer base is growing and that we’re attracting customers from further away.”
As for CineAsia, Irving notes, "I have been a regular participant in the CineAsia convention since the inaugural one. CineAsia is a great place to catch up on the latest developments in the industry. I am also looking forward to exchange ideas with our peers. I wouldn’t miss it…except when I am opening a new cinema around the same time!”
FJI and its Asia/Pacific bureau congratulate Irving Chee on his CineAsia honor and allthe great work he’s done in Malaysia.