Lo Lam (盧林) – Building Contractor, Theater Owner and Movie Producer

York Lo: Lo Lam (盧林) – Building Contractor, Theater Owner and Movie Producer

Lo Lam Building Contractor Image 1 York Lo

Lo Lam with actresses at his birthday party in 1963. Right to left: Yu Lai-chun (麗珍), Lo Lam, Fung Wong Nui (鳳凰女), Lee Heung-kam (李香琴), Kam Ying-lin (金映蓮). (WKYP, 1963-8-3) 

In the 1960s and the early 1970s, a building contractor by the name of Lo Lam (fondly known as “Uncle Lam”) was a prominent figure in the HK movie industry as the owner of two theaters (Ying Wah and Ying King) and three movie production companies (Kowloon, Amusement and Sun Fat), which produced many popular Cantonese films including some of the Wong Fei-hung and teen idol movies.  

From Construction and Real Estate to Movie Theaters 

Lo Lam Building Contractor Image 2 York Lo

Left: sketch of the Ying King Theatre when it first opened in 1960 (KSEN, 1960-10-19); Right: ticket of the Ying Wah Theatre, likely from the 1980s. 

Lo Lam was the proprietor of Yiu Cheong Lung Lam Kee Construction Materials Co. (耀昌隆林記) and Lam Kee Construction Co (林記建築). Yiu Cheong Lung operated out of 243 Lai Chi Kok Road in Sham Shui Po, which was later developed (presumably by the Lo family) into Yiu Cheong Lung Building in 1979. In 1962, the family incorporated Lam Ying Bor Investment Co (林英波置業) to engage in real estate development, which derived its name from Lo Lam and his two sons – Lo Ying-kit (盧英傑) and Lo Bor-kit (盧波傑). 

Lam Kee built many standalone Chinese tenement buildings in the old districts such as Sham Shui Po, using quality building materials and unique designs to suit the various locations. One of these tenements was 115-119 Kweilin Street, a 9 story building designed by architect Lee Chung-nan (李仲能) with 27 units and a 3000 sq ft rooftop garden which was pre-sold in 1960 and opened in 1962. 

In the late 1950s, the Lo family bought over 100,000 square feet of land in Tai Kok Tsui, which was rapidly developing from former docks into a burgeoning industrial and residential area. To enhance the value of his properties and to provide entertainment to residents of the residential buildings it developed and workers from nearby factories, Lo Lam, a Cantonese opera enthusiast, decided to open a movie theater – the 1571 seat Ying King Theatre (英京戲院) at 9 Fir Street and 33 Larch Street in Tai Kok Tsui, which was opened in a star studded ceremony with Executive Council member and founding commissioner of the Civil Aid Service, C.E.M. Terry as guest of honor in October 1960. At the time, Ying King joined the Kam Kwok theater chain operated by the Kwan family and the first film it showed was “The Eagle Knight and the Crimson Girl” (神鷹飛天俠), starring Yam Kim-fai and produced by Lux Film Co (麗士影業), which was founded by the screenwriter Lee Siu-wan (李少芸, 1916-2002), husband of Yu Lai-chun (余麗珍, 1923-2004), who played Crimson Girl in the movie. In the beginning, the theater had 4 shows daily with ticket prices ranging from 40 cents to $1.50. (KSEN, 1960-10-19) 

In the early-mid 1960s, Ying King showed first run Cantonese films but from the late 1960s until its closure in 1977, it showed first run Mandarin films and also showed first run English films in 1974-75.   

In February 1967, the Lo family opened the 1454 seat Ying Wah Theatre (英華戲院) at 84 Choi Hung Road in San Po Kong featuring the latest Simplex projectors. The theater was the renamed the Ritz Theatre in the late 1980s/early 1990s and was closed in 2005. 

Kowloon Film Co (九龍影業), Amusement Film Production Co (娛樂影業) and Sun Fat Co (新發公司)

Lo Lam Building Contractor Image 3 York Lo

Opening credit of Kowloon Film 

Soon after launching Ying King, Lo Lam realized the need for vertical integration to provide his theater with movies rather than relying on others and started Kowloon Film Co. in the early 1960s with his eldest son Lo Ying-kit, who went by his other name Lo Kau (盧九).

The first film produced by Kowloon was “Emperor Han Moved by the Romantic Tune” in 1962, which was directed by Fung Chi-kong (馮志剛) and starring Lam Ka-sing, Nam Hung (南紅, original name So Suk-mei) and Lee Heung-kam. Lo Lam met Nam Hung at the set of “Emperor Han” and impressed by her dedication and success of the film with the additional persuasion by four of his daughters who were allegedly fans of Nam Hung, Lo Lam became the godfather of the actress Nam Hung (original name So Suk-mei 蘇淑眉) in 1963 and the occasion was celebrated by a large banquet at the King Wah restaurant in Mongkok with 60 tables. (KSDN, 1963-11-6)  

Lo Lam Building Contractor Image 4 York Lo Left: Actress Nam Hung serving tea to her godfather Lo Lam (WKYP, 1963-11-20); Right: Lo Kau (second from left) with Leung Sing-bor, Wu Fung and Lam Fung (WKYP, 1963-10-18) 

When the HK Motion Picture Producers Association (香港電影製片商會) was formed in 1963, Lo Kau was elected vice chairman under Sit Siu-cheung (薛兆璋) and other directors included Lee Fa of Emei Films (see article on Lock Hing Shiu) and Wu Pang. (TKP, 1963-12-28) From 1963 onwards, Kowloon produced at least 6 films per year and became one of key players in the production of Cantonese movies. Most of these films were filmed at studios such as Wader (see article). 

In 1967, Kowloon Film was involved in 6 pictures, one of which being the famous teen movie “Waste Not Our Youth” (莫負青春) starring Connie Chan (later daughter in law of Jefferson Young, see article), Lui Kei, Tam Ping-man and Lydia Shum and filmed at a school in Yau Yat Tsuen and involved 300 school uniforms for extras. The same year, Lo Kau visited Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia to expand the distribution of his films. (KSEN, 1967-11-18) 

In 1968, Lo Kau mentioned to the press that the breakeven box office for a Cantonese film was HK$300,000 and the fact that the family also owned movie theaters gave them an edge over some of its competitors. (KSEN, 1968-7-26) 

In July 1969, the Kowloon Film Company hosted its first fan gathering at the Lung Wah Theatre previewing the film “One Eye Loner” starring Lui Kei and Suet Nei and Lo Kau himself together with stars from the company such as Petrina Fung Bobo (馮寶寳) and Louise Lee Si-kei met with over 1000 fans. (WKYP, 1969-7-20) Other stars who acted in Kowloon films at the time included Alan Tang Kwong-wing and the Hui brothers (Sam and Michael).

In the late 1960s, the Lo family opened Amusement Film Co and Sun Fat Co to produce more films.  Amusement Film produced at least 9 Wong Fei-hung films in the late 1960s starring Kwan Tak-hing. In 1969, the three companies were involved in 15 movie projects. The firms had five directors – Lee Tit, Ng Dan, Wong Fung, Chan Wan and Yeung Kuen and six contracted actors – Alan Tang, Ling Fung, Bobo Fung, Louise Lee, Shek Chun and Susanna Auyeung. The firms provided horse riding and martial arts training to its actors and spared no expenses in creating movie sets. (WKYP, 1969-5-2)  

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, lower budget Cantonese movies in HK had given ways to bigger budget Mandarin films which were exported to Taiwan. In 1968, it was reported that Lo Lam secretly went to Taiwan with plans to build a studio there to produce Mandarin films. (KSEN, 1968-7-8) 

In 1970, Amusement Film decided to shift its focus to production of Mandarin films and ended its contracts with Bobo Fung (who wanted to quit to focus on studies according to the press) and other Cantonese actors (WKYP, 1970-5-20) The effort in making Mandarin films was less successful although Lo Lam was listed as producer of one Mandarin film – “The Mighty Couple” in 1971 starring Fung Bobo, Alan Tang, Susanna Auyeung and Shek Kin. Lo Kau was also quoted in 1971 as interested in producing the Mandarin film “When You Were Young” (往事只能回味) based on the song and script written by Taiwanese Stephen Liu Chia-chang (劉家昌) but the movie was eventually produced by a different company. (WKYP, 1971-6-22) 

Lo Lam Building Contractor Image 5 York Lo

Lo Lam’s birthday party at the Shamrock restaurant in 1969. The lower left panel is him with actor Walter Tso Tat-wah (see article on Yau Kiu Studio) and the lower right panel is him with his goddaughter Nam Hung.  (WKYP, 1969-7-25) 

By the mid-1970s, the Lo family was still operating Ying King and Ying Wah theaters but were largely out of movie production as Lo Lam was getting old, Lo Kau was getting sick and Lo Bor-kit was more interested in real estate than movies. In the 1970s, the Lo family was also involved in the restaurant business with Sun Pong Restaurant (新邦酒樓), which opened in Woosung Street in the Kwun Chung district in July 1973 (WKYP, 1973-4-19) and Hon Pong Restaurant (漢邦酒樓), which became New Hon Pong in 1977 with Carl Mengky Ching as managing director. 

Outside of business, Lo Lam was also active in philanthropy and over the years donated money to various charities such as Po Leung Kuk, sometimes through the Wah Kiu Yat Po charity fund. He even sang during the television fundraiser for the relief effort after the rain disaster in June 1972 and raised over HK$50000. (WKYP, 1973-2-17)

From the 1960s until the early 1980s, Lo Lam held large birthday banquets (over 1000 guests) every year at his birthday in July at a Chinese restaurant which were well attended by individuals from the entertainment industry and covered by the press. A Cantonese opera enthusiast, Lo himself sang a song from the Cantonese opera “Bandits of Shandong” (山東響馬) every year at his annual birthday banquets until 1983 when he stopped at the advice of his doctor due to respiratory issues. (WKYP, 1969-7-25, 1970-7-14, 1971-7-30)  

In June 1985, Lo Lam died at the age of 93 and was buried in the Chai Wan Chinese Permanent Cemetery. He was survived by his second wife Wong Wai-chung, his second son and seven daughters while his first wife and eldest son Lo Kau predeceased him. (WKYP, 1985-6-26) 

Sources (other than those cited above): 

https://soco.org.hk/soco_past/117/bkg_2.htm

https://gwulo.com/node/36733

http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/18023

http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/31561

List of films with Lo Lam as producer: 

http://hkmdb.com/db/people/view.mhtml?id=17245&display_set=eng

List of films produced by Kowloon Film Co, Amusement Film Production Co and Sun Fat: 

http://hkmdb.com/db/companies/view.mhtml?id=532&display_set=eng

http://hkmdb.com/db/companies/view.mhtml?id=291&display_set=eng

http://hkmdb.com/db/companies/view.mhtml?id=963&display_set=big5

This article was first posted on 7th February 2020.

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