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The Film Festival: It's better than Pokemon Go

13 Jul 2016 • 2 Comments

With the New Zealand International Film Festival about to reel into town, it seems an opportune time for a rundown on some of our iconic known Wellington movie theatres, with some lesser known cinemas thrown in for good measure. Despite the presence of Readings slap-bang in the middle of the CBD, there doesn’t seem to be any threat to our boutique cinema scene - a real testament to Wellington's love of art and cultre. In our little capital there are still so many places where you can feast your eyes on the theatres as well as the films. In no particular order, here are some of my most loved movie theatres in the CBD, and a couple in the 'burbs. 

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The Embassy


How could I not start with the Embassy Theatre. Anyone who knows me knows I treat the embassy as a bit more than a movie theatre; the combination of free wi-fi and a comfy chaise longue has made the Embassy the perfect place for all that "studying". It has seen me through a few exams and more than a few romances. 

The Embassy has become an iconic Wellington landmark and the red carpet has been rolled out for many a local premiere. Its spacious grandeur has undergone more than one makeover over the years and taking in a movie there always feels like a special outing. An outing enhanced by The Black Sparrow bar burrowed downstairs serving world-class cocktails.

The Embassy is one theatre in Wellington which screams opulence as soon as you walk through the door. Upon entrance you are welcomed by regal winding staircases which lead up to a spacious lounge. Subtle lighting and the use of table lamps on small side tables create a serene and elegant atmosphere. And despite appearing like a place where you couldn’t catch a movie without a Hepburn in it, the Embassy does in fact screen most of the blockbusters, so you can enjoy the Embassy experience whether you prefer your Romanian art house or your Minions. 

Light House

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Light House Cinema is an independent, locally run Wellington business which started out in Petone before branching to the CBD. Light House Cuba is a more recent addition to the Wellington cinema scene, but one that has quickly become one of my favourites (undoubtedly enhanced by its proximity to Havana Bar). It isn't actually on Cuba Street - rather it is nestled on Wigan Street, just behind the Design and Architecture School. Light House has a cosy, inviting atmosphere and the intimate couch layout makes for a perfect date spot.

I find the only turn off about going to the movies is the price. By the time you’ve bought your tickets, upgraded to a combo because you couldn’t possibly sit through two hours without a large wine, popcorn and a choc top, you’re looking at a sizeable dent in the wallet.

That's when you can head to Light House. Not only does it maintain the old $10 Tuesdays, but they have a different special every night of the week. Monday Escapes means a selected movie screens each Monday for $11. Wednesdays are ideal for mums and bubs, who can enjoy a free movie at 10.45 a.m. Wednesdays also cater to the 60+ bracket, with all movies costing $11 and you will even receive a free coffee! That same deal applies on Thursdays to students. At the rate my uni studies are progressing I will be eligible for the gold card about graduation time so I'm sorted - thank you Light House.  

The Roxy

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Nestled in the heart of ‘Wellywood’, The Roxy Cinema is a little bit further from the city but well worth a trip to Miramar. When I'm at the Roxy, I never know whether I should be taking in the film itself, or the décor. Wide gracious spaces and beautifully painted ceilings make it feel more like a ballroom than a movie theatre. 

In keeping with their aura of 'old school cool', the Roxy makes a point of showing old classic movies from time to time. Those screenings always make for a great night out and there is a real feeling of comradery between fellow old-movie lovers.  Let’s be honest, a ten minute bus ride is not going to stand in the way of me finally getting to see Hitchcock on the big screen.


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True to its namesake, Paramount is Wellington’s oldest surviving cinema, and has been around since 1917. Paramount tend to favour more artsy films, making it the perfect place to go if you’re looking to culture up a Sunday afternoon. Paramount offers a unique combination of large and smaller cinemas with a large lounge and bar and a balcony view over bustling Courtenay Place.

If you are planning an event a bit different from your standard BYO, look no further than Paramount. It tailors packages to suit whatever situation. You could hire the venue for a more casual drinks and nibbles type affair, or, go full force into an all night movie marathon. And if you have a particular movie you’d love to see on the big screen, ask the team at Paramount – if they can source it for you, they will. 

The Penthouse

The Penthouse Cinema in Brooklyn is another one of Wellington's older, but still in vogue theaters. The Penthouse has changed quite a bit over the years but all additions have been done in their original art deco style, allowing them to keep their old-fashioned charm. Plus now that they have four screens, you're bound to find something you want to watch on one of them!

If you’re looking for somewhere to see the new Ab Fab movie (because really, everybody should be) – I’d recommend the Penthouse. They are hosting one of their many "Girls' Night Out" evenings where $20.00 includes both the ticket and a glass of bubbles. You will need transport up the notorious Brooklyn hill but there is ample parking and the destination is worth it. 

So back to the point!

The film festival this year runs from the 22nd of July to the 7th of August. You can check the full schedule here. While there is no shortage of incredible films on offer, they do tend to only screen two or three times, so get in quick.

There is no doubt in my mind that the price of a movie ticket still constitutes good value for a great night out. For me, sitting at home looking at a nine inch, or even 60 inch screen does not compare to the grandeur of the Embassy or cosy comfort of the Light House. Whether making a night of it with friends or cocooning alone in a squishy chair, a night at the movies still transports me to another world in a way a DVD or Netflix never will. 

See you at the festival!

Add your comment

  • CruellaClarke 17/07/2016 11:47pm (15 months ago)

    Holy s***, how did I not know half of these existed???
    And what's Petone?

  • Jo Hammersmith 14/07/2016 5:22pm (15 months ago)

    I am so excited to explore some of these lesser known places in Wellington. Who knew we had such a rich and diverse range of cinemas in our little city! Thanks for this article. Jo

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