This cinema in the heart of Wellywood is film-nerd heaven
Founded by a group of local film industry movie-lovers, The Roxy Cinema is a hub where Wellingtonians celebrate cinema together
There’s a reason our little city is affectionately known as Wellywood. We love making films, and we love watching them – and there’s nowhere better to do the latter than the Roxy.
A Miramar institution, the Roxy sets itself apart from other boutique cinemas with its gorgeous interior, extravagant themed events, and excellent food and drink options, courtesy of CoCo at the Roxy.
The story of the Roxy begins with the Capitol Theatre, which operated in this spot from 1928 to 1964. Some current Roxy regulars still remember seeing films there! The building became a shopping arcade and then sat empty for three decades. Meanwhile, Wētā Workshop set up its headquarters nearby and put New Zealand’s film industry on the map with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In 2011, some of Wellington’s most dynamic and creative residents achieved their vision of creating a multi-use space to celebrate film, arts and community. The Roxy is co-owned by Oscar-winning editor Jamie Selkirk and wife Ann, Wētā Workshop founder Tania Rodger, local foodie Valentina Dias and husband Daminda, and the latest member of the team, the one and only award-winning mixologist Ray Letoa.
The Roxy wasn’t exactly a restoration project - only the façade of the Capitol Theatre remains. Everything about the new building pays homage to its history, with a cheeky sci-fi twist. A team of Wētā Workshop artists and set-builders were commissioned to create a space that is art deco meets futuristic.
Yes, this is film-nerd heaven. The walls are decorated with original classic movie posters, Gollum and Gandalf sculptures greet you in the foyer, an old projector from the Capitol days sits by the staircase, and Weta models are on display in the lobby, along with a real Oscar statuette (Selkirk’s, for editing The Return of the King).
Once you get inside one of the Roxy’s two cinemas, you can sink into your red Italian leather seat and prepare for optimal movie-viewing. Every seat is well positioned, with no risk of an instant migraine from a too-close screen. The aisles are spacious enough that no one has to stand for their neighbour’s mid-movie bathroom break. Even the snack menu is designed to be enjoyed crunch-free.
For the full Roxy experience, attend one of their legendary special events. Like the 24-hour Harry Potter marathons, complete with midnight Quidditch game, themed breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a real-life Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. Or Eat the Film, where you can watch a retro classic (think Pulp Fiction or Blade Runner) and have every meal and drink shown on screen served to you, in your seat, in real time. Or Tea Time Talkies, where classic films are shown with a 30-minute intermission for a proper Devonshire tea, just like in the good old days. Or the Lord of the Rings marathons, with guest speakers who worked on the films.
The ceiling mural in the upstairs Grand Lobby, by Weta artist Greg Broadmore, is inspired by the 1927 silent film Metropolis, as are Sir Richard Taylor's gold martini drinking robots reclining in the wall recesses.
CoCo at the Roxy
Food and drink are a crucial part of all these, and many other, events. That’s where CoCo at the Roxy comes in, with head chef Nic Spicer and bartender Ray Letoa at the helm. Spicer’s menu is made up of small plates, designed for sharing; try a selection, but be sure not to miss the fried feta with truffle honey and thyme. Every Sunday, he puts on an epic roast dinner, which has become a weekly tradition for many locals.
Letoa’s cocktail menu features a new themed cocktail every week, which ties in with one of the current films, alongside much-loved staples like the CoCo Rendezvous. If you time your visit right, you’ll catch a Roxy Live performance: comedy, jazz, burlesque, and more, on an intimate stage in the dining area.
And while you’re there, check out the murals by Weta’s Chris Guise, depicting the past and present of Miramar – a film-lover’s paradise, with the Roxy at its heart.