Stars Wars fans seek out smaller cinemas as big complexes close after earthquake
Star Wars fans could be forced to seek out cinemas far, far away – well, Upper Hutt at least – with two of Wellington's biggest complexes closed by earthquake damage.
Smaller cinemas around the region are already seeing a rise in sales for big summer releases, with Reading Cinemas in Courtenay Place closed until further notice, and Event Cinemas in Lower Hutt's Queensgate mall scheduled for demolition.
Sophia Stace, 23, who lives two minutes' drive from the Lower Hutt complex, said she would now have to go to Wellington's Embassy Theatre to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story when it is released in mid-December.
"It's definitely a shame about [Event Cinemas]," said the long-time Star Wars fan, who has a Darth Vader tattoo on her thigh.
* Mass Star Wars tattoo event draws fans
* Reading confirms quake-damaged carpark may come down
* Event Cinema at Queensgate Mall will be demolished
* New Star Wars: Rogue One trailer and poster revealed
"I thought it was a really nice cinema and it was definitely convenient for me. I go to the movies a lot, so I'm pretty upset to hear it won't be back for a while."
A staff member at Embassy Theatre said there had been a "little bit of a rush" for Star Wars tickets when they went on sale on Monday.
North of Wellington, Monterey Cinemas manager Jason Kelman said the Upper Hutt complex had ridden a rising tide of ticket sales since opening about a year ago.
"But we've seen a big lift since the earthquake. We've had a lot of inquiries for bookings over the phone and on Facebook, and I don't anticipate that changing soon."
Along with the latest Star Wars, the cinema was preparing for Trolls and Sing.
"It [Star Wars] was always going to be big. We've had more phone calls and email requests than any other movie."
In Brooklyn, Penthouse Cinema manager Iain Macleod said his cinema would leave the blockbuster "to the big boys".
He had noticed a "slight lift" in business since the earthquake, but it was too early to gauge how the holiday season would pan out.
Lighthouse cinema owner Simon Werry said "the whole issue is really sad for the industry in Wellington and the Hutt Valley", and declined further comment.
A telephone voice message left by Reading Cinemas said it would offer a full refund for people who had bought tickets to any of its movies.
Event Cinemas could not be contacted on Monday afternoon.