In conversations about this site, people often ask me the inevitable question: What is your favourite New Zealand cinema? I usually choose the Everybody's Theatre in the small South Taranaki town of Opunake. On other occasions, people report back to me about their own discovery of Everybody's, expressing their surprise at finding such a wonderful cinema in such a seemingly unlikely place.
But it has been there, in one way or another, since the 1920s. In recent years, it has had a new lease of life due to a very successful fundraising campaign, which enabled earthquake strengthening and a beautiful upgrade, together with the work of a band of dedicated local volunteers. What you will find at the Everybody's is a quite unique blend of classic cinema-going and local charm.
The next time you are through Taranaki, take the coastal route from Hawera to New Plymouth (Highway 45), stop in Opunake and discover this cinema for yourself.
In early December 2019, I took a trip around the South Island to visit or re-visit cinemas, beginning in Christchurch and returning there eight days later, after visiting 28 independent cinemas (Rangiora, Kaikoura, Nelson, Westport ....). It was an intense but satisfying trip, especially where I was able to visit places where I had not been before, or where I had not been able to see cinema interiors. One such cinema was the Entertainment Centre in Roxburgh/Roxburgh Entertainment Centre.
I have added details for their listing in the Cinema Directory/Otago but also I want to make known a potentially very important aspect of the main auditorium there. The folk who run the Entertainment Centre on behalf of the community are gathering evidence and are seeking confirmation for the claim that this cinema space is the longest-continuously-running cinema space in the world, providing film since its first screening in 1897.
If their claim is successful, then will be cause for celebration and subsequent national recognition of this historical site. Watch this spot.
The November 2016 Kaikoura magnitude 7.8 earthquake largely destroyed the lovely old Mayfair cinema on the foreshore, leaving little more than the art deco-styled pink and black facade salvageable. In the ensuing months, the community of Kaikoura has been fund-raising (donations, film screenings in other venues, art auctions etc) to have the Mayfair rise again. One particular local (John Wyatt) has been the driving force behind this.You can find more information about their fundraising on their Facebook page https://m.facebook.com/mayfairkaikoura/
When I visited on December 9, 2019 the timber framing for the external walls was being raised. The plan for the new Mayfair includes two cinema screens and a large auditorium for live events. It will provide a important cultural centre for the lively town of Kaikoura, and a replacement balcony will ensure it will be once again a cinema which has one of the finest views of mountains and ocean in the world.
There is a proposed opening date of 9 November 2020. I hope to be there.
Tivoli Cinema, Cambridge
Along with the Lido cinema in central Hamilton, the Tivoli in the pretty Waikato town of Cambridge is a favourite film-going venue. Stylishly developed and opened in 2014, in a refurbished building on the northern outskirts of town (between a large Bunnings and a very popular Good George bar/restaurant), it is a lovely three-screen cinema. Owners Shane and Karen know their films and their programming is often more adventurous that some other independents. It is not on the NZIFF circuit but festival films often turn up there and the Italian Film Festival was scheduled there in 2019
A reliable clue that will tell you that the film selection and screening quality (as well as the ambience) will be top-notch are the film books scattered around the lounge area.
Karen and Shane opened a companion Tivoli in Papamoa (close to Tauranga) late last year, which serves a slightly different audience. It is a little too far for me to venture, but the Tivoli Cambridge is just a 15 minute south down SH1 (where you can experience the thrill of a 110kph speed limit) for me. Since the highway bypassed the town, Cambridge has become even more of an appealing destination, with bookshops, antique stores, good cafes, and ready access to cycle trails.
Lumiere: Arts Centre Cinemas, Christchurch
The Lumiere Cinema in Christchurch Arts Centre
To start this new feature on this site, it seems appropriate to begin with the newest art house venue in New Zealand. I journeyed down to Christchurch on June 27, 2019 for the grand opening in the Grand Hall of the old Arts Centre in the centre of the city. It was a sumptuous occasion, fitting of a remarkable new cinema, with MC for the evening Jason Gunn declaring "it is a dream which has come to life ... it's all class...the design ... the carpets ... the toilets".
The Lumiere is the creation of Nick Paris and Max Hoffman; two men who have a long career in the film exhibition, with a particular attachment to Christchurch. In Nick's words, "I want to hang on to the tangible nature of film and film-going".
Cinema has been absent from the Arts Centre since the February 2011 earthquake and the Lumiere brings it back with a tremendous flourish, in the former West Lecture Building on Rolleston Avenue. It feature two screens : The Bernhardt (67 seats) and The Bardot (42 seats). Naming screens after these two famous women signals the intent of the owners; to screen films, both old and new, which draw on film as both an intellectual and entertainment medium, in an atmosphere which is so different from the glare and aromas of the multiplex.
Do visit when you are next in Christchurch. I just wish it were closer to where I live.
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.