New Zealand 2000 Tour

Our first international tour

From the 4th to 20th May 2000, a group of CATHS members enjoyed a very interesting tour to the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Flying from Melbourne to Christchurch on the east coast of the South Island the tourists were hosted by the New Zealand Film Buffs Association (FBA) at their weekend convention. This wonderful weekend set the pace for the rest of the tour. We enjoyed wonderful hospitality, great entertainment and picture post card scenery.

The tour continued from Christchurch by the TransAlpine tourist train to the rugged west coast arriving at Greymouth. We then headed north to Westport and north east to Nelson and Picton. We crossed the Cook Straight by ferry and arrived in Wellington, New Zealand's capital city. From Wellington the tour continued up the west coast to Foxton then onto Palmerston North, Hastings and Napier (the Art Deco towns on the East Coast). The tour then moved to Rotorua, Hamilton and on to Auckland.

CATHS Vice President, Mike Trickett, acted as our tour leader and with the help of the FBA members, had organised a busy itinerary including cinema and theatre inspections (of current and past buildings), visits to home cinemas, movie and sound museums. In most places the FBA members were there to host and guide us or had pre-arranged inspections. In the central area of the North Island three FBA members joined our mini bus convoy for the day. The New Zealand CATHS members, residents of the North Island, were also there to assist us.

We were surprised to find that there had been a great interchange of cinema and theatre entrepreneurs over the Tasman Sea (nick-named 'the ditch'). Fullers Theatres started in New Zealand and moved across to Australia. JC Williamsons had a large chain of theatres and cinemas throughout New Zealand. Even theatre architects worked in both countries. Henry White (a New Zealander) and Neville Hollinshed (an Australian) worked on both sides of the Tasman.

It was interesting to see how much theatre preservation had taken place or was planned. Even in country areas, former cinemas has been acquired by local Councils or community organizations, and converted into multi purpose theatre / cinema facilities. Some excellent independent cinema complexes were to be found at Sumner (Christchurch), Nelson, Te Awamutu and Devonport (Auckland). The owners of these properties had gone to great trouble and expense to convert single screen theatres to well appointed complexes with their decor treatments.

The major highlights were tours of magnificently refurbished theatres such as the Royal (Christchurch), St James (Wellington, see photo below) and theatre / cinemas such as the Regent (Palmerston North). The 'jewel in the crown' was an extensive tour to the Civic (Auckland, see photo below), fresh from its $NZ42m refurbishment and conversion to a lyric theatre. The Civic had been built as an atmospheric cinema, seating 3500. Indian themes decorated the extensive foyers and Persian themes were used in the auditorium.

It is to be hoped that CATHS will again venture far and wide to both Australian and overseas destinations. Thanks Mike for a great tour!

Gerry Kennedy,

President CATHS

 Facade of the Civic Theatre Auckland  >

Proscenium & auditorium Civic Theatre Auckland

< The Regent Palmerston North