The Rickshaw Theatre, formerly known as the Shaw Theatre, was built in 1971 as part of the Shaw Brothers’ (Sir Run Run Shaw and Tan Sri Runme Shaw) worldwide movie empire. The Shaw Brothers are the most significant film production company in the history of Hong Kong cinema. Over the past nine decades, the Shaws have amassed a collection of over 800 titles.
By the early sixties, the Shaw empire had incorporated 35 companies, owned 130 cinemas, 9 amusement parks and 3 production studios.The 1967 blockbuster, “The One Armed Bandit”, a Jimmy Wang Yu revenge yarn by the legendary Chang Cheh, shaped the emerging Kung-Fu movie genre. Chang Cheh’s 1970 work “Vengeance” marks the first genuine Kung-Fu movie.
By the 1970’s, Shaw Brothers’ movie empire blossomed to 230 cinemas including the one at 254 East Hastings, Vancouver. Centrally located between the neighbourhoods of Chinatown and Strathcona, The Shaw Theatre in Vancouver was the west coast hub for all of the Shaw Brothers’ North American business operations and distribution. The theatre itself was the west coast crown in the Shaw Brothers’ theatre empire and featured the most modern movie technology of the time including a 10,000 square foot theatre room, dolby sound and cinema-scope screens.
But by the mid eighties, the Shaw Theatre closed its doors as interest in the Kung-Fu movie genre waned. The theatre sat more or less dormant until it was repurposed as a live music venue in 2009 as the Rickshaw Theatre.
Realizing the Rickshaw’s potential as an outstanding music venue, Mo Tarmohamed came on board in the summer of 2011 to run the operations and eventually taking over the business. The theatre boasts possibly the best sight-lines of any music venue in the city, with scalable capacity that can be easily configured to accommodate 200 to 600 people.
A vibrant Rickshaw has now become a vital institution in the ongoing revitalization of the Downtown Eastside.