Return of a Pioneer: GAISANO MALL OF GENSAN CINEMA

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Back in General Santos City of the 1990s, it was becoming ever clearer that the locally-operated cinema scene was starting to falter and fade. Thankfully, Gaisano Mall of GenSan opened its in-house theater, offering the latest local and international films through its four cinemas while independent movie-houses in the city began closing up. Gaisano’s cinema was a favored place of mine during my high school days, when I would save enough money to watch a film I liked during the weekend.

However, the theater fell into bad times itself, not helped by strong competition from KCC Mall opening its own movie-house with six cinemas. Eventually Gaisano GenSan closed down its film operations, and that has been the state for well over a decade or so. Thankfully, that time has ended.

For the better part of this year and the past few, Gaisano Mall of GenSan has been undergoing a major renovation effort, expanding its layout for more shop and tenant space. But they were also busy putting a new face and look for a contemporary mall feature that they had abandoned quite some time ago. And last month, they quietly opened their new and improved in-house cinema to the pleasantly surprised Generals.

I was caught off guard by it too, but it needn’t be said just how very happy I was that the cinematic hangout of my mid-teens was back and better than ever. It certainly looked awesome, even in how to access it. Sure, moviegoers can take the two escalators and one elevator up to the third floor to reach it, but perhaps the best way to enter would be from the rear mall entrance. The old 4-theater cinema was reachable there by a stairway. This time around there’s a grand escalator that goes all the way up to the cinema floor with no other stops. It’s probably the longest escalator ride to be had anywhere in GenSan now.

Finally we have the cinema complex itself. In a bit of a take that from KCC which arguably stole its thunder, Gaisano offers no less than seven theaters to its customers, pretty much assuring that there’s a spot for any film from a wide variety of genres to be shown. Remember that Gaisano was the first mall in the city to have a cinema; it was a pioneer, and they have returned to the business in obviously top form.

When I first got to see the cinemas for myself, they were showing five international films and two local ones, most of them big theater-grossers. The ticket prices were also cheaper, almost at par with KCC’s own price range.

Anyway, one thing that did impress me regarding the cinema’s layout was how spacious the “waiting area” was in front of the ticket counter. There’s plenty of room to walk about, and to accommodate lines if they do form. That open area also has benches and – appropriate for the season – a Christmas tree to admire when not yet going in to see a movie.

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To one side of the cinema floor is the snack counter. My first impression is that it serves its purpose well, and has a good variety of movie-house snack options, from chips to popcorn and so on. They also have a shelf offering movie tie-in merchandise. Currently it was chockfull of DC superhero figures in anticipation for the premiere of “Justice League” this month. But one advantage that Gaisano Cinema’s snack bar has over its competitors is the fact that it has dining tables for moviegoers who might prefer eating their fill before entering the theaters. Not even SM GenSan has that.

Finally we come to the central focus of this whole article: the theaters themselves. Granted, it has been literal ages for me since I last saw a movie in the old Gaisano GenSan Cinema, so my recollections of the dimensions might well be off (I knew old Cinema 1 was slightly larger than the identically-sized old Cinemas 2-4). Still, from what I gathered, I’d put them as being halfway in size between the old theaters’ dimensions, with decent aisle size and sitting legroom.

I especially love the fact that the theaters have glass door and window divisions from the waiting area, three sections with Cinemas 1-3 in the first (next to the ticket counter), 4-5 in the second and 6-7 in the third, both of which are in the “wings”. They add some additional soundproofing aside from the actual theater doors, and some measure of privacy and safety as well, seeing as they have their own security checkpoints.

To conclude, Gaisano Mall of GenSan may well have proven how much they valued their former in-house cinema by making such an epic return for it in the midst of their still-ongoing building renovations. There’s nothing like a true pioneer of the city to show KCC, Robinson’s and SM just how to do things, and I applaud them greatly. Here’s hoping I could catch a film I’m looking forward to watch there soon. Now if only G-Mall GenSan will also revive their Sonic Boom game arcade too.

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