Arthouse meets digital at Metropolis
Metropolis, a new two-screen cinema at The Tannery shopping centre in Woolston, will open early next year and heralds the return of arthouse cinema to Christchurch. Charlie Gates reports.
When Paul Stewart first bought a video player in 1983, he instantly saw it as a way to bring arthouse movies to the New Zealand masses.
He shelved his dream of a chain of arthouse cinemas and opened Alice in Videoland, the movie rental store that still thrives in central Christchurch nearly 30 years later.
Now, Stewart and his son Jeremy are returning to that dream and using new technology to once again bring arthouse movies to Christchurch.
Two years ago Jeremy Stewart opened a small digital cinema, called the Cinematique, in the Alice's building on the corner of High and Tuam Sts and early next year will open a new two-screen cinema at The Tannery shopping centre in Woolston.
"It is a dream coming true," says Paul Stewart.
"It is the same philosophy as before. I have been a cinephile forever and day. The freedom Alice's had with videos we can now transfer to the big screen."
The two-screen cinema will be fitted with the latest digital technology, opening Christchurch up to a range of movies and film festivals that would otherwise not get a release here.
"There are so many films and festivals that we are not seeing here because we don't have enough screens."
"We lost 22 screens in the February earthquakes and then three more went in Hornby. So we are 26 screens down. We have only got four back. It is only logical that we are missing out."
He cites Lars von Trier's movie Nymphomaniac as a title that never screened in Christchurch, but would have got a release if Woolston was open.
"I have never ever seen the market so enriched with quality films coming our way. It is a tsunami coming our way," says Paul Stewart.
The new Woolston cinema will have 55 seats and a 34-seat screen. The cinema will be named after, and themed around, the 1920s film Metropolis.
The foyer will feature a life size sculpture of Maria, the iconic female robot from the German Expressionist masterpiece.
Metropolis is one of Paul Stewart's favourite films and images from the film have been used in Alice's promotional material since the place opened in 1985.
A handdrawn version of the film's poster has been on the wall of Alice's since the mid 1980s.
"The first time I saw that film it was visually overwhelming. Cinema can do this?
"I have always loved it."
Jeremy Stewart, who oversaw the opening of the Cinematique screen in the city centre, says he hopes to open the new cinema in the first quarter of next year.
"Once I opened the screen in town it was evident that we needed another screen. We are up 30 per cent on admissions for the second year compared to the first," he says.
"This will be pure arthouse, not just jumping on the band wagon of films like Mrs Brown's Boys. We will carve out our own style of films."
He hopes to be able to screen about eight titles a week across the three screens.
He says The Tannery is the perfect place for a new cinema as it has a large catchment area and is located between the Hollywood cinema in Sumner and the new Academy Gold cinema on Colombo St.
Tannery owner Alasdair Cassels believes the cinema fitted well with the arts theme of the shopping centre.
"We see The Tannery as being about arts and culture and that is part of the offering we have here. I have known Paul for 30 years and I really wanted his business here because he is very dedicated to the film industry and has a lot to offer."
Alice's "maven" Nick Paris says the new cinema will be a return to a Christchurch urban tradition.
"This is a return to the tradition of the 1940s and 50s where Christchurch had a lot of locations in the suburbs.
"They were hubs of social interactions in a safe village.
"In a post-quake environment, a return to that is really good, especially while the city centre is still transforming.
"Cinema is not just sitting in a seat and watching a movie.
"It is about leaving your house and the music and the coffee and then the conversation with your friend afterwards.
"That is all part of the dance."