Hobbit screening links with gala

A Tararua town will be welcoming Tolkien fans in style with a red-carpeted stroll to the community cinema's release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Pahiatua's Regent Theatre is celebrating its first nationwide release at the community-owned theatre in 70 years on Wednesday.

But the much-anticipated Tararua screening of the Tolkien-inspired film won't involve wirey-bearded wizards, pointy-eared elves or hairy-footed hobbits dawdling down the cinema's red carpet. 

Instead, Tararua dignitaries will be dressed in their finest and swaggering along the paparazzi-lined entrance playing the part of famous Hollywood stars.

Tararua District councillor and Pahiatua resident Shirley Hull said she would be wearing a ''fancy long frock and will be doing the old boy up like James Bond''.

''We love an opportunity to have a get-together and a bit of a party in Pahiatua, and this is for a good cause, too.''

The Hobbit screening doubles as a grand gala fundraising event to help with the theatre's remodelling.

The Pahiatua Upstairs Cinema Society bought the 600-seat theatre more than 40 years ago and volunteers have run it since.

About $1 million has been spent renovating and restoring the art deco building to its 1940s glory, including converting the building into two theatres, making the downstairs dedicated to live shows and the upstairs committed to the community-owned-and-operated cinema.

But at least $200,000 of extra funding was needed to install updated seating, a lift and new heating and lighting.
So Pahiatua brothers David, Peter and Bruce Lea came up with the idea for the Pahiatua screening to help the society reach the final hurdle. 

Theatre life member and movie patron David Lea said it was a major achievement for a rural town to secure a nationwide release.

''This is a historic event for Pahiatua. Just the mere fact of having a day and date release of this film and the magnitude of this is fantastic.

"Normally we don't get these sorts of films for two or three months after the cities have had them and thrashed them, so this is great for us.''

The hype of The Hobbit has certainly reached Pahiatua, with the community getting behind the milestone event, with the gala fundraiser selling out in the first 24 hours of going on sale and the midnight screening filling up quickly.

Mr Lea hoped the season would run well and the cinema could secure future nationwide releases.

Manawatu Standard