100 years on, curtain finally comes down as Paramount holds last ever screening

The Paramount Theatre in Wellington's Courtenay Place was built in 1917.
ALEXANDER TURNBULL LIBRARY

The Paramount Theatre in Wellington's Courtenay Place was built in 1917.

After 100 years of operation, the curtain is coming down for the last time at the Paramount cinema in Wellington.

The city's oldest cinema will hold its last public screening on Monday night before its lease runs out this week.

Although the curtains are closing on the Courtenay Place cinema, a little bit of its history will be preserved, in a different form, in the Bay of Plenty.

The Paramount earlier this year. It will close its doors at midday on Tuesday, after a final screening on Monday night.
SOUMYA BHAMIDIPATI

The Paramount earlier this year. It will close its doors at midday on Tuesday, after a final screening on Monday night.

The cinema's three projectors, screens, sound system, and seats have been sold to Shane Jarrett, and will be installed in his new Tivoli Cinema in Papamoa.

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"They are a good little boutique operator and they care about film,"  Cinema Paramount (CPL) director Steven Ferguson, who took over management of the Paramount in 2015, said.

The 420-seat cinema is one of three at the Paramount.
SUPPLIED

The 420-seat cinema is one of three at the Paramount.

The Wellington Film Society will take a number of projectors, along with 220 film reels, that have accumulated over the cinema's history.

Other memorabilia will be available for the public to acquire before the lease officially runs out on September 30.

The final screening on Monday night will be Wim Wenders' 1975 German arthouse film Wrong Move, screened by the Wellington Film Society at 6.15pm, in collaboration with the Goethe Institute.

Steven Ferguson, director of Cinema Paramount Ltd.
SUPPLIED

Steven Ferguson, director of Cinema Paramount Ltd.

For the past 100 years, the Paramount brought music and film from around the world to Wellington.

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The cinema opened on August 4, 1917. A special screen was imported for use, and 1200 seats installed. It was described in The Evening Post at the time as the height of modernity.

"No money has been spared to make the theatre thoroughly comfortable and up to date. There is a fine, bold entrance, which at night will be studded with electric lights, and, alongside, an arcade lounge-bar, at which drinks and delicacies will be obtained."

Nicholas Peren, managing director of arts promotion company Paragon Arts, outside the Paramount in August 1990, shortly ...
JOHN NICHOLSON/STUFF

Nicholas Peren, managing director of arts promotion company Paragon Arts, outside the Paramount in August 1990, shortly before the company took over the lease.

The first feature played was an Artcraft production with Mary Pickford called Less than the Dust, about an English orphan raised in India.

The silent films were accompanied by a full orchestra in the Paramount's largest cinema.

On March 8, 1929, it became the first in New Zealand to screen a "talkie", with The Street Angel.

Carol and Merv Kisby took over the Paramount in May 1967.

Carol and Merv Kisby took over the Paramount in May 1967.

In the week leading up to its closure, it has hosted a mix of events, including Abundant Life Church services, 48Hours  short film festival, and the Japanese film festival.

"A particular favourite is the Black Power Film Festival, spurned by other venues as too risky," CPL director Simon King said. "We gave them a lifeline and it went on to be a soldout event.

"That is our legacy – keeping the Paramount alive for the huge range of people who have used the place, from churches on a Sunday, to every form of film festival imaginable."

A screening at the Paramount.
SUPPLIED

A screening at the Paramount.

The final function will be held on Tuesday morning with senior citizens' group U3A. It will close about midday.

There have been proposals to convert the building into a hotel, apartments or office block, but nothing has yet been confirmed.

The cinema celebrated its 100th anniversary in August, and has long hosted community film festivals.

"A fine theatre, ranking equal to the best in New Zealand, is now nearing completion at the Courtenay-place tram-way ...
SUPPLIED

"A fine theatre, ranking equal to the best in New Zealand, is now nearing completion at the Courtenay-place tram-way junction." From The Evening Post, Saturday, July 21, 1917.

Wellington Film Society will move to Te Papa until the end of the year.

 - Stuff

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