Why Wellington's reputation as the 'coolest little capital' is stone-cold dead
Graeme Tuckett 05:00, Jun 19 202
Live the movies in a world class, state of the art cinema, and dine in one of Wellington's hidden gems.Graeme Tuckett is a reviewer for Stuff to Watch.
OPINION: Here's something I hopefully will always love about Wellington.
I reckon it's one of the best cities in the world to see a movie. Within walking distance, or a bike ride from the city centre, I can be at the Lighthouse, The Penthouse in Brooklyn, the Empire in Island Bay and the Roxy in Miramar. All of which are superb venues.
And for a blockbuster or a festival night, you still can't go past The Embassy.
It may not have an IMAX screen – and for some people, that will mean it is never enough – but I still reckon The Embassy is the greatest cinema in New Zealand for a big release.
Auckland and Christchurch have some brilliant and beautifully maintained cinemas, but they are mostly out in the suburbs. So I say, for central city movie-going, Wellington is still the place to be.
Which is just as well. Because at every other aspect of running a hospitality-friendly city – Wellington, Auckland is absolutely kicking your arse.
I was up in Auckland last week, for the first time in two years. I was in the central city and – because I'm a hopeless Wellington fan – I wasn't expecting much. Certainly not the vibrant, lively and seemingly getting-back-on-its-feet scene I found.
The pedestrianisation of Lower Queen Street, as well as the footpath-widening and the traffic-calming, looks like a success, while Wellington’s inner-city is still in thrall to the motor car.The pedestrianisation of Lower Queen Street, as well as the footpath-widening and the traffic-calming, looks like a success.
Walking felt like a smart way to get around. Although plenty of people rode scooters, because the footpaths were wide, I didn't feel unsafe sharing with them.
And that pedestrian-friendly approach has allowed the small car-free side streets – Vulcan Lane, Durham Street, etc – to really thrive.
It's a work in progress and there will plenty of dissenting voices, but to this outsider, it looked like a great idea being well implemented.
Walking up Queen Street to Karangahape Road – my daily hang-out a few decades back – I noticed the same thing.
The bike lane and pedestrian-friendly design had made the street into somewhere people felt like being. The eateries were as busy as I've ever seen them.
Meanwhile, something as obvious as making Cuba Street car-free, widening the footpaths to accommodate those lethal scooters, or even saving a public transport system that linked the railway station to the rest of the city, seem to all be beyond the abilities of the officials you might think are responsible for such things.
Let's not even mention policies that could mean someone other than the landlords make a living wage out of hospitality and retail in this city.
Wellington, you are still a great place to watch a movie, or even make one.
But the myth of the “coolest little Capital” is stone-cold dead.
Geoff Lealand was an Assoc Prof in Screen and Media Studies at the University of Waikato from 1992 to 2017. Now retired (not a word he favours), he writes social history, maintains this site, its Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as going to the cinema at least twice weekly.