New Zealand's Best Cinemas

New Zealand's Best Cinemas

At the movies: Celebrating New Zealand's best cinemas is an excellent article by

A good cinema is like the jewel in a town's crown.

Once upon a time, there was an Odeon, Regent, Empire or Majestic in every town in the country, sometimes one in every suburb. But then TV and video came along, and later the trend for great big 13 screen behemoths and DVD stores, that meant the end for some of the classic picture palaces of old.

There's nothing wrong with the multiplexes, except that while sometimes plush, they often lack character, and going to one never really feels like an event, anymore than a trip to the supermarket feels like a day out.

But it's not all convenience and mass consumption. Here and there are dotted a few tributes to the days when going to the flicks was a posh night out, when the movies really meant something. Here's our list of places that still make movies feel special: The nation's best, most charming cinemas...


Every local real estate advert seems to mention it as a selling point and they're right: Northcote Point locals are fiercely proud of the stylish independent Bridgeway Cinema, nestled close to the northern foundations of the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Originally the King's Theatre, it was once a dance hall, but became the Bridgeway when the bridge opened; its complex encompasses the old bus garages to the back and now boasts 4 screens, including an intimate 18-seater affair which feels like watching a movie in your lounge room. The adjoining cafe is due to re-open under the management of the local bar, Stafford Rd. - Steve Kilgallon


From its spacious waiting and 50s diner-style, yet somehow modern bar area to the plush and plentifully spacious faux leather seats within, there's just something about the Broadway at Newmarket which makes it feel like it's a bit more committed to the more intimate cinema-going experience â€' even if it is serving up your traditional blockbuster fare.

While it is in a somewhat lugubrious position on the outside, sandwiched as it is between an entrance to a car-park and the Olympic swimming pools with their incessant chlorinated waft, inside it manages to transport you into the timeless world of the screen the moment you walk in.

The screens themselves also feel strangely intimate. From the space for your feet and bums on seat, comfort and the lower numbers of seating all remind you of the timeless quality of the celluloid night out.

(Honourable mention: The Hollywood cinema in Avondale for its commitment to providing an old school experience.) - Darren Bevan


The Anzac Theatre, Dargaville is a 64-seat testament to community spirit.

Installed in an old library building, a group of volunteers led by former Kaipara mayor Graeme Ramsey began with a bank account containing $100 and opened their doors in 2013.

No corners were cut in turning into a neatly-appointed, very stylish modern cinema showing a rapidly-revolving mix of blockbusters and arthouse. With a single employee they rely on volunteers to keep the cinema going. I went there for a story in 2014, where trustee Josie Scott declared: "The cinema is fast becoming the town's heart." - Steve Kilgallon


If New Zealand has a State Cinema it's The Embassy on Kent Terrace in Wellington.

Unlike other grand picture houses of yore, Old Vanilla â€' which turned 93 in 2017 â€' resisted the down-sizing that ruined the older Paramount down the road, to remain the last 1920s cinema still operating in New Zealand.

It got a good lick of paint, new sound system and spiffy news screen in 2002-2003, ahead of the Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King premiere, and it's been a shining beacon of culture and civility at the bottom of Courtenay Place ever since.

Now it's the spiritual home Kiwi cinephiles, the the natural home of the New Zealand International Film Festival and the best picture house in the country. Long may she reign. - Kylie Klein Nixon


​Regent in Masterton feels like cinemas used to when I was a kid...pokey and dark and mysterious.

Sure, it's got extra screens now, and the poster frames show Vin Diesel and Charlize Theron instead of Fred Astaire or Barbara Stanwyck, but there's something so old school about the big gold, hand painted letters above the door; the shabby-gentile red carpeted lobby; the baroque theatre, that feels like you're in a period film yourself.

Yanking open those big glass and Rimu doors feels more like going into a chapel than a picture house. Maybe that's what this 1930s old building is: one of the last remaining temples to the golden age of Hollywood. - Kylie Klein Nixon


A suburban cinema that isn't part of a mall complex is a rare sight these days. Hollywood 3 in the beachside suburb of Sumner is a survivor from a bygone age.

It's been around since 1938. Locals Lang and Maureen Masters ran it for more than 50 years until they sold it to another Sumner family a couple of years ago.

Unlike many of the buildings around it, it escaped the earthquakes relatively unscathed.

The decor incorporates nods to the cinema's history. It shows a good mix of popular blockbusters and arthouse films, with an emphasis on family-friendly fare. The snack selection is impeccable.

Perhaps best of all is that you can walk on the long beach after your film and digest and reflect on what you've just seen. - Jack Van Beynen


A place where intermissions are still celebrated, Wanaka's Cinema Paradiso is a popular destination for tourists thanks to recommendations from both Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor.

Where else in the country can you watch the latest blockbuster while seated on an eclectic old sofa or from a Morris Minor while munching on a freshly baked cookie? A two screen cinema that combines old school charm with modern technology. - James Croot


Currently home to New Zealand Motion Picture Industry Council's "Unsung Hero", digital technician/projectionist Gary Gutschlag, Dunedin's delightful Rialto Cinema is a magnificent example of how to transform an old picture palace into a modern multiplex.

Originally known as the Empire (and later the St James), what was once the country's second-largest theatre is now a six-screen heaven for film-lovers that combines art house with more mainstream fare. And while you wait for your movie to start there's some amazing architecture to marvel at. - James Croot

Source: At the movies: Celebrating New Zealand's best cinemas
Aug 15 2017

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