Theatre Royal may host film fest

Christchurch's Isaac Theatre Royal could host 1200 movie fans for the New Zealand International Film Festival.

Festival organisers are in talks with theatre management to install cinema equipment during the $30 million rebuild of the central city site. Organisers believe the theatre could provide a perfect home for the festival.

The event has struggled in Christchurch, selling fewer tickets per capita than Auckland and Wellington. Organisers believe this is because Christchurch does not have a large venue like the Civic Theatre in Auckland or the Embassy in Wellington.

A restored Isaac Theatre Royal could provide a venue able to seat about 1200 people for festival films.

Theatre general manager Neil Cox was hopeful cinema equipment could be installed.

"We are looking at ways it can be achieved. The interest is there, and we are having discussions," he said. "If we don't investigate it now, we will not have the chance to do it again. It's a possibility and we will give it a go."

Cox said installing sound and projection facilities could cost as much as $400,000. He said sightlines in the new theatre would be good for a screen.

Festival publicist Nick Paris said plans for installing cinema equipment were being costed and funding options explored.

"We should have a very strong case as the festival has not had a permanent home in Christchurch for some years," he said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to achieve this for all the cinema lovers in Christchurch."

He said the theatre would make a perfect festival venue.

"It would be right in the heart of the CBD, where it should be. It would bring a real buzz and vitality to the city centre. To have 1000 people watching a festival film - the atmosphere would be electric."

The theatre is set to reopen in 2014. Restoration will retain the modern fly tower and will restore the foyer and facade.

The carefully demolished auditorium space will be rebuilt. Samples of the ornate auditorium plasterwork have been saved so the interior can be restored to its former glory.

Cox said the facade would be propped and secured by the end of the year, allowing Gloucester St to become two-way again.

The Press