Peter Jackson buys Bats theatre

Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh have bought experimental Wellington theatre Bats.
Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh have bought experimental Wellington theatre Bats.

The iconic Wellington BATS Theatre building has been bought by movie moguls Sir Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh.

The couple purchased 1 Kent Tce, which has been the theatre's home for 22 years in the Courtenay Pl precinct, and granted the company a long term lease.

The three-storey 1923 building was offered for sale earlier this year by its previous owner, the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, for $1.19 million.

Jackson and Walsh plan to refurbish the theatre and enhance the performing space.  

"We are extremely fond of BATS and we're happy to help secure a permanent home for the theatre," Sir Peter said in a statement tonight.

"Wellington has been good to us and we wanted to give something back."

The Royal Antediluvian Order of the Buffaloes decided to sell in the middle of the year.

Walsh said BATS was a stepping stone for talent which was worth protecting.

"BATS has always fostered original Kiwi talent and provides an incredibly supportive environment for up-and-coming writers, directors, musicians and actors. We feel its unique voice is worth preserving and protecting and we look forward to refurbishing the theatre and enhancing the performance space."

BATS has launched the careers of some the capital's most famous actors including the Flight of the Concords duo Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, Boy director Taika Waititi, Outrageous Fortune star Robyn Malcolm, Shortland Street actor Michael Galvin and performer Jacob Rajan.

Many plays which premiered there have been picked up by other theatres and festivals including Apollo 13 and Heat.

The board of BATS considered moving to another building or fundraising to buy the building, chairwoman Victoria Spackman said.

"The generosity of Peter and Fran has solved an extremely difficult problem for us. BATS is totally identified with its Kent Terrace location. Moving or fundraising to buy the building was going to be a steep hill to climb."

Mrs Spackman said the board was " deeply appreciative of this investment in our abilities".

"This is the most wonderful endorsement of the past 22 years of work at BATS. We consistently foster the talents and experience of people who go on to national and international careers in film, theatre and other creative endeavours. We are their starting point."

"The term 'ecology' is used to describe the theatre community in Wellington and the way it feeds and supports each other.  Peter and Fran's contribution is recognition that BATS is a vital part of a bigger ecology still - the wider creative community in this country."

Sir Peter Jackson
Sir Peter Jackson

The Dominion Post