The Movie Theater Experience in Shanghai

Mar 20, 2018 10:30:00 AM / by Irene Kanthan

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Jolena is an official CAPA vlogger for spring 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Finance and International Business major at University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in Shanghai this semester.

In this week's post, Jolena finds out what it's like to watch a movie in Shanghai and tells us why this global city has it all.


This past weekend I got the chance to watch a Chinese movie at the theater, go out for a hot pot dinner, and visit the Yuyuan Garden!

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What is the Movie Theater Experience Like in Shanghai?

On Friday a group of us went out to watch a movie at the theater and then get hot pot for dinner afterwards. Many might ask, what’s so special about going to the movies in China? Well in comparison to the U.S., it’s a bit different. What sparked the interest of going to the movies was that a group of students wanted to see Black Panther, and it’s offered in 4DX here. 4DX isn’t common in the US and I believe there’s only a handful of theaters. Here, we were able to find one pretty easily that was close by and for a decent price. Although many wanted to see Black Panther, I, and a few others, opted to see Operation Red Sea, a Chinese action/war style movie. The movie was really good, albeit it was all in Chinese. I don’t have much to compare it to, as this is the first Chinese action movie I’ve watched, but in comparison to American movies, it was similar to American Sniper except without a main character. I wouldn’t say it didn’t have a storyline, but it was more plot-based rather than character-based. As I said, it's pretty good, and I’d say I recommend it!

In terms of setup, the experience of getting a ticket and watching the movie is the same as the U.S., but something that stood out to me was the snacks. I think this may be a bit obvious as the cuisine is pretty different between the U.S. and China, but I really had been picturing salty, buttery popcorn when we decided to go see a movie. They did have popcorn, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. I’d describe Chinese movie theater popcorn as caramel popcorn—sweet but not too sweet and served just as what “regular” popcorn is in the U.S. They had the usual fountain sodas, but they also had bottles and cans of typical Chinese teas and juices. They also had bags of interesting flavored Lays and other typical snack foods found in China. I didn’t see any chocolates and candies that you can usually find in American movie theaters. Altogether I really think it was a worthwhile experience, and I’d probably go see another movie in the theaters once one sparks my interest!

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After the movie we went to a hot pot restaurant for dinner. I’ve had hot pot loads of times at home, but not much out at a restaurant. The place we went to was known for their customer service, and I now understand why. Once you are seated they provide a hot towel, hair tie, phone cover, bag to cover your coat and purse, facial towelette, and apron. These are all precautionary towards how messy the meal will be. If you’ve never had hot pot before, it’s basically where a large pot of broth is placed at the center of a table and you are given various plates of dishes to cook in the broth. There were cuts of meat, different vegetables, tofu, etc... It’s pretty much a free for all as you kind of put in what you want and then go fishing for it after it’s cooked for a bit. I’d recommend trying it if you never had it before. I think everyone had a great time and the food was delicious!

On Saturday we were taken by our CAPA resident director Colin and his assistant Lulu to the Yuyuan Garden. The garden was initially owned by a government official who built the garden as a gift to his parents during the Ming Dynasty. After their passing, and having swapped ownership a couple of times, the garden was eventually taken over by the Chinese government who decided to preserve it and open it to the public. The garden had gone through a lot of dilapidation so it probably doesn’t look as it did when it was created, but it’s beautiful and in great shape. Now many tourists are able to enjoy the beautiful architecture and wildlife every day!

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Saturday morning, we set out to visit the garden. We rode a couple of stops and switched lines on the subway before we had to walk a small distance to reach it. There’s a small fee to enter, but this fee goes towards the garden’s preservation. Upon entry we saw an ancient meeting area, rock sculptures, and various wildlife. We also saw an ancient entertainment area, pavilions, and manmade ponds with many fat koi fish. I can’t do the garden much justice in trying to type out an explanation, so all I can say is that the garden really embodied the tranquil nature it was built for. We all took a seat at one point and were able to soak in the beauty and peace of the garden. It was great visiting it, and I have a feeling we’ll be back because upon exiting there were little shops and stalls with local cuisine. We didn’t spend much time walking around but we did get to have traditional Shanghai fried pork buns for lunch. The line at the shop was pretty long but it was worthwhile because they were so good! Although I love how modern Shanghai is in a lot of aspects, I had a great morning in the Old City and I know our little CAPA group will be back!

It’s hard to believe how much can be done over the weekend, just in our host city. From normal things like going out for a movie and eating a traditional meal, to sightseeing and being complete tourists, I really feel like Shanghai has it all.

Thanks Jolena!

Sarah's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned.

Learn More about the CAPA Shanghai Program

Topics: Shanghai, China, Activities Abroad, Food in Shanghai