'As long as I'm alive, I'll be doing this'
Art and Stage
It's been more than half a century since the love affair began, but Lang Masters isn't about to drop the curtain on it yet.
Masters, who owns and runs the Masters Hollywood Cinema in Sumner with his wife Maureen, recently won a New Zealand Motion Picture Industry Council award for service to the industry.
"It's been over 50 years. As long as I'm alive, I'll be doing this," says the octogenarian. "I enjoy it and if you enjoy it, it's not a job."
Winning the award was "an honour and completely unexpected", he says.
"They suddenly rang up and said, 'Would you like to come up to Wellington and accept this award?"
He first became enamoured with movies after he left school and he started running night screenings in small country theatres while holding down a magazine job during the day.
"It wasn't easy to get into the cinema business," he says.
"I was the youngest film distributor in New Zealand. I worked in the magazine business during the day and ran the theatre at night for 15 years. I only did a couple of nights a week.
"Once I got into the suburbs, I left the day job and concentrated on the cinemas."
His first suburban acquisitions were what would become the Lido Cinema in New Brighton and Hollywood Cinema in Sumner.
He came into the film business just as television was becoming mainstream in the 1960s and there were fears no-one would go to the movies anymore. He bought theatres that were closing and "tidied them up a bit".
At its peak, his empire spanned across seven cinemas in Christchurch. Even though the numbers have dropped now and multiplexes have crept into the city's neighbourhoods, business is still good because the target audience is different.
"We don't go much for the action stuff," he says.
"Our audience is mainly between their 30s and their 70s. We run a lot of art films and foreign films and operas from the Metropolitan Opera in New York."
Films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Quartet, and Mamma Mia did very well, he says.
"We do screen some of the same stuff as the multiplexes, like The Hobbit and the James Bond films, which are quality films. But not X-Men. We don't bother with that."
3D was also something else Masters believes is not worth bothering with.
"People are not interested in that down here. Most of the 3D films are animated ones for kids. It doesn't help the film much unless it's animated, and there aren't many 3D films coming up. The next one is The Hobbit [The Desolation of Smaug]."
When asked about his favourite film, he says he can't pick one.
"Everyone asks me that. I just enjoy them all."
But if he has to choose some films to forget just so he can have the pleasure of rewatching them fresh again, he would pick Dr Zhivago(1965) , Oklahoma (1955), Carousel (1956), and the Godfather films.
- © Fairfax NZ News