Construction starts on new cinema for Lower Hutt's Queensgate mall

A portion of Queensgate's parking area was fenced off on Tuesday in anticipation for the cinema and carpark rebuild.
A portion of Queensgate's parking area was fenced off on Tuesday in anticipation for the cinema and carpark rebuild.

Construction of a "state of the art" cinema began in Lower Hutt on Tuesday to replace the theatre demolished following the Kaikōura earthquake.

While punters have waited a long time for a cinema to return to Lower Hutt's Queensgate Shopping Centre, celluloid bliss is still a few years away with completion scheduled for 2021.

Mark Luker, development general manager for Stride which owns Queensgate, was unable to disclose who would operate the seven screen multiplex for reasons of commercial sensitivity.

The Event cinema which formerly operated at Queensgate was demolished in December 2016 after it sustained structural damage during the November 14 earthquake.

* Reading Cinemas in Wellington suddenly closed due to quake risk
* Wellington's Courtenay Central closure leads to calls for greater transparency
* Wind a big problem for Queensgate Mall demolition crew
* Seismic report finds 50 shops in Lower Hutt's Queensgate mall are quake-prone

Rebuilding has also started on a carpark which was demolished at the same time. Luker expected it to be ready in time for Christmas trade in 2019.

A seismic assessment found elements of three out of 10 buildings which make up the shopping centre needed strengthening work. Planning and design for this work began in July last year.

Retail analyst Chris Wilkinson said the return of a cinema to central Lower Hutt would be good for other businesses, particularly in the mall.

"It's likely people have been travelling elsewhere [to go to the movies] and taking their spending with them. It will be good for Lower Hutt's economy."

Owner-operator of Miramar's Roxy Cinema Valentina Dias said she had noticed more customers coming from the Hutt since late 2016.

"We get people who get in to the city [and find] in town it's not that easy to find a park so they just keep coming across [to Miramar]."

The Roxy had also seen a bump in customers since Courtenay Central's Reading Cinema closed on January 5 after the complex was found to be at risk in a seismic event.

They had adjusted their screenings to play more mainstream films during busier times.

Joe Larsen, duty manager at Island Bay's Empire Cinema, had also noticed a "big spike" in customers and suspected it was connected with the Reading closure.

Dias said the cinema community in the Wellington region was relatively small and it was never good to see a theatre have to shut its doors. She was pleased to hear the new complex at Queensgate was under way.

Online streaming was affecting the industry and transforming the act of waching a film into a solitary experience.

"Older generations viewed content in a communal way. It's about getting people to want to come out and share the experience with other people."