New Zealand's oldest surviving cinema marks 100 years

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New Zealand's first cinema, The Kings Theatre, opened in Wellington in 1910 and was demolished in 1986. The oldest surviving cinema is now the Victoria Theatre in the Auckland suburb of Devonport, which just celebrated its 100th birthday. Opened in October 1912 as Benwell's Picture Palace, it was remodeled in 1929; the auditorium was enlarged, sound was installed and art-deco motifs were added. It was converted into a triple in the 1980s.

The upstairs area is now a 114-seat auditorium, the main stalls area is a 176-seat space, and there is an additional 44-seat art-house screen. When it looked about to close recently, the North Shore City Council took over the much-loved building and has kept it operating. Ticket prices include a $1 donation for restoration and repair work. The cinema shows a mixture of art and mainstream product.

It looked at one stage like Auckland's only mid-city art-house cinema, The Academy, was about to close. Owner John Davies said that the twin was no longer viable and put it up for sale, with a closing run of Cinema Paradiso announced for Oct. 14. However, new owner Andy Miller says that it will be business as usual and the cinema will continue. With soaring rents, few inner-city art houses remain in New Zealand. They are now mainly located in inner suburbs close to the Central Business District.

There is still no news on the reopening of most of the CBD cinemas in Christchurch, New Zealand, which were damaged in the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes. There is a commitment to restore and reopen the city's historic arts complex which held several cinemas as well as a live theatre and artists shops, but nothing concrete as yet. Christchurch does have a new art house with the recent opening of the Alice Cinematheque, a 38-seat cinema in the old High Street Post Office building in the CBD.

Roadshow has just finalized a long-term deal to distribute Lionsgate product in Australia. The deal includes at least three films in the Hunger Games franchise.

The Sapphires has now become one of Australia's top 15 grossing local films, passing the $14 million mark. Bait3D has been less successful in Australian cinemas, grossing over $1 million, but due to stronger results internationally, a sequel is now in preparation.

Send your Australia/New Zealand news items to David Pearce at insidemovies@hotmail.com.