Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Silver Screen Saved

the opening of the restored Victoria Theatre
While the proverbial was hitting the fan last week over The Hobbit debacle, the Victoria Picture Palace Theatre re-opened in Auckland's seaside suburb of Devonport, 98 years to the day after it was first launched as a cinema.
The restoration was celebrated last Saturday with pipe bands, vintage cars, and admiring crowds pouring in. The wooden flooring and ornate plaster ceilings upstairs remain and the early brickwork and strong oregon beams are still sound.
the original opening of the Victoria, 1912
...and then.
This is the oldest purpose-built cinema in NZ...possibly in the Southern Hemisphere. In 1912, it opened as Benwell’s Model Picture Palace with a 40 piece band, free children’s matinee and seating for a thousand people. In 1990 it became a twin cinema complex, with the large single auditorium separated into two large cinema spaces.
Ownership changed several times and it faced being turned into apartments but, following the efforts of a theatre trust, the North Shore Council bought the building in 2006 and the Historic Places Trust gave it a 'Category 1' heritage status. The trust won the tender to lease the building for 33 years and has refurbished it: leaks and water damage have been repaired, new projectors, seating, ventilation and heating systems installed and much of the interior painted.
The Victoria will have three cinema spaces: The Victoria Theatre (a 180-seat theatre which will be a combined cinema and performing arts venue), the Albert Cinema (an upstairs 120-seat cinema) and the Benwell (a 44-seat electronic cinema). The trust’s long term plan is to complete a full historic restoration and seismic strengthening.
Cinemas were an important part of Auckland’s early life - most suburbs had one, many now demolished or not acknowledged for their heritage value. It’s wonderful to see such an important landmark not only saved but revitalised.
(...many thanx to AKT)

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