From our heritage ‘silver linings’ section of the recent earthquake (we’ve already talked of another one here) the movie reviewer from the Dominion Post pointed out that since all the multiplexes in Wellington and Lower Hutt are currently closed because of earthquake damage, the smaller theatres throughout Wellington are doing very well at present, such as:
– the Empire in Island Bay,
– the Penthouse in Brooklyn,
– the Lighthouse in Petone,
– the Roxy in Miramar and
– the Paramount in the city.
All of these cinemas are housed in heritage buildings (although I will concede that the Roxy is actually really just a heritage facade of a heritage building with a modern building behind). As a result of the closure of the multiplexes, the distributors of the big blockbuster summer movies now need these small cinemas to show all the blockbusters they had been planning to show at the multiplexes.
The Empire Cinema, Island Bay.
Likewise, Wellington’s theatres are also doing well after the EQs- the very fabulous Hannah Playhouse, the St James, the Wellington Opera House, the MFC, the Gryphon Theatre in the rather lovely Art Deco Atlas House on Ghuznee Street, and Circa (another facade only) are all open. Apparently at the Hannah Playhouse only a mirror and a bottle of whiskey broke.
The future of the Paramount Cinema as a movie theatre is unfortunately under threat at present, as it is for sale, and the current owners had already acquired a resource consent to allow it to be turned into a 4-star apartment hotel. It has been a cinema since 1917, and it would be a great shame if it ceased this function. It is apparently one of the oldest businesses in Wellington, as well as the longest running purpose-built cinema. We used to have so many cinemas in Wellington – in 1912, the year that the St James was built, there were 12 cinemas in the central city, with a combined capacity of over 6,000 people. I do hope that the new owners will want to keep it functioning as a cinema.
Paramount Cinema in 1923
Images: Elizabeth Cox. Paramount Cinema in 2007 by David Leverton on Flikr, Creative Commons License; Paramount in 1923 from Alexander Turnbull Library Ref: PA6-017; Hannah Playhouse by Lanma726, Flikr, Creative Commons License. Information on buildings after the earthquakes from Stuff.