The ghosts of cinema past

Architectural plan of Everybody's TheatreEverybody’s Theatre (pictured) was proposed to be built on Lichfield Street the 1930s, and I’m thinking it might have been quite flash for a night out.

The image is from of our collection of  digitised plans of Christchurch buildings, where you’ll also find the original floor plan of the Majestic Theatre. I read recently that the Majestic building will be refurbished again, and I started thinking about the disappeared theatres in Christchurch.

From the tiny Savoy 1 & 2 (where I saw everything from Star Wars and  2001 : A Space Odyssey to Arnie movies and the eye-popping Evil Dead 2)  to the West End (Stripes), or the Avon (Goodbye Pork Pie, I think), there’s several theatres that have disappeared over the years.

Which Christchurch theatres do you remember? And which movies did you see at them?

42 thoughts on “The ghosts of cinema past

  1. Michael A 15 July 2010 / 10:09 am

    There was a theatre by the Papanui roundabout when I first moved into the district…can’t remember the name…

    • Nick Paris 17 January 2019 / 7:37 pm

      The Barclay ( Empire earlier)

    • Anthony 21 May 2023 / 4:24 am

      The Barkley. I remember going to watch something there on a Saturday afternoon, they stopped the movie three quarters of the way through, and said come back next week to watch the rest. 1968, 69.

  2. Marion 15 July 2010 / 10:50 am

    Michael it was the Barclay. I remember cycling out there over three nights to watch Sergei Bondarchuk’s epic War and Peace. Alice in Videoland still has this – it’s fantastic.

    • Michael A 15 July 2010 / 4:36 pm

      From the Canterbury Film Society website:

      History: Opened as the Papanui Memorial Hall by the Waimairi County Council. It bacame the centre of most social activity in the area during the next generation. During the 1930’s it became a picture theatre, well known as the Empire, then as the Barclay.

      The Barclay closed in 1975 due to earthquake regulations. Now demolished and the site a Memorial Garden.

  3. Marion 15 July 2010 / 10:54 am

    Richard I was watching Towering Inferno at the Regent when there was a fire alarm and we all had to leave the theatre for awhile. Heart pounding moment! I used to love the Square when it was full of movie theatres – it made it a destination for locals instead of a tourist desert. There was a great coffee house in Chancery Lane which was good for after movie debates.

    • thecountrygirlandfriends 10 October 2017 / 7:00 pm

      What were the odds that the fire alarm went off whilst viewing The Towering Inferno! (I went to see that movie 3 times …….)

  4. robyn 15 July 2010 / 2:26 pm

    The Tivoli is one I remember – I was forbidden to go there because it was too ‘rough’ so that added an extra frisson to any movie. I hope my mother is not reading this. Guilt has caused me to forget any actual titles but I do recall a certain air of faded glory. I loved The Odeon as well, and was there one called Cinerama? I remember seeing A Clockwork Orange on a fake I.D. (it had an R20 rating)
    at a theatre in Gloucester Street but can’t remember the name of the theatre. Why are my movie memories bound up with naughty behaviour?
    It’s all coming back to me now; double features at The Rex in Riccarton Road. Francis the Talking Mule at a really bizarre place in Hornby that was like someone’s front room.

  5. Sue Colyer 15 July 2010 / 5:24 pm

    My favourite memories are of the Tivoli (later the Westend(in the north side ot the Square. Alovely art deco building, but I chiefly remember the films,notably “Rock around the Clock” and on a more arty note “Black Orpheus”, Ingmaar Bermann’s “Virgin Spring” and “Wild Strawberries”, “Blow-up”, “Jazz on a Summer’s Day” and many others. There is a great article from a 1961 “Canta” about the theatre on the Film Society website

    • Donna 16 July 2010 / 9:22 am

      Tip of the hat for your movie taste Sue!

    • richard 16 July 2010 / 11:47 am

      That looks like a great book – it’s interesting how many suburban and smaller cinemas there used to be. I had no idea for instance, that Wilson’s Pharmacy on Barrington Street used to be a theatre …

      • robyn 16 July 2010 / 4:55 pm

        I am on a cinema remembering jag – the suburban ones were great – The Century in Edgeware Road, and there was one in Fendalton across from where Misceo’s is now, and one in Brighton, and Pantages in Hornby was great. I scarred my children for life by taking them to The Princess Bride there.

      • Pat evans 5 July 2018 / 9:33 pm

        The Vogue picture Theatre in Barrington was the best. I would go most Saturdays it cost 3p to get in and if it was your birthday you would get a free bag of lollies at half time lol

    • Susan Reeves 25 July 2018 / 8:20 am

      Yes I bought a copy of this as soon as it was published. Its amazing and brought back so many memories.

  6. Erin 15 July 2010 / 7:01 pm

    Does anyone have any photos to go with their memories that they could put on the libraries’ flickr pages?

  7. Donna 16 July 2010 / 9:38 am

    I remember visiting the metropolis of Christchurch from my hometown of Gore and being stunned by the red glamour of Regent 1 and 2.

    And I remember seeing Dracula starring Gary Oldman there. Who needs Team Edward or Jacob when there is Team Gary to shout for?

    • robyn 16 July 2010 / 4:51 pm

      ” I have crossed oceans of time to find you”. Ohhh Gary.

  8. Mo-mo 16 July 2010 / 10:07 am

    This is a great topic!
    It was a revelation to me that underneath it all the Tivoli (or the Westend as I knew it growing up) was actually a gorgeous Art Deco building. I was sad to see it knocked down after that. At least it got a chance to look pretty again for a while beforehand though. I can’t remember any of the films I went to their but I do remember going to a rave there in the nineties!

    I definitely remember going to see a Smurfs movie at The Avon, which is now The Holy Grail nightclub.

    I agree with Donna about the red glamour of the Regent, though I would sometimes trip up on the shallow stairs that led up to the theatre area. For some reason I always judged them to be more shallow than they were and tried to carelessly run up them with mixed results.
    We once went to the Regent to see Mel Gibson in Hamlet on a school English trip.
    We couldn’t have imagined then that Mel Gibson would actually turn out to be a raving nutter…

    • richard 16 July 2010 / 12:02 pm

      I liked the Regent’s comfy red seats – I think I saw Moonraker there – and come to think of it, The Man with the Golden Gun. The Avon was where my bus home stopped, so I’d be forever looking at the movies that were on …

    • kylie 19 July 2011 / 10:31 am

      I went to a rave there too! I thought no one remembered that. They played Anime on the big screen, the seats had all been ripped out, it was the best rave ever.

  9. Alan Beck 19 October 2012 / 10:44 pm

    What was the New Brighton theatre? I saw the Carroll Baker “Harlow” there in 1966. Apparently, Carol Lynley was better, Harlow, Harlow, Whose Your Lady Friend?

    • Tammy 26 February 2014 / 2:15 pm

      There were 2 cinemas in New Brighton that I remember. The old Picture theatre (It was beautiful inside) which I first knew of was on the Corner of Oram Ave and Beresford Street. Then there was one built in where Marshalls Healtfoods is now (since moving across the road) this is next to where the original countdown (beside Central New Brighton School Pool)…….OH the memories!!!

    • Paul de Spa 20 October 2016 / 10:40 pm

      One of the Brighton cinemas was called the Roxy

  10. stephen reed 18 January 2015 / 6:32 pm

    1966 was the Lido Theatre. It closed in 1974. Great double feature nights on Sundays!

  11. Susan Reeves 30 June 2018 / 2:53 pm

    The Metro in Sydenham, back to 1961 when mum took me to see ‘ Journey To The Centre Of The Earth’… the original 1959? version with James Mason. I remember sitting on the floor peering between the seats at the giant lizards on screen… In actual fact, tiny magnified lizards! But enough to scare a 5 year old!

    • Donna 2 July 2018 / 12:39 pm

      Thanks for sharing Susan, I love that this blog post is still creating memories. ^Donna

  12. Susan Reeves 23 July 2018 / 9:44 am

    My local theatre was the Century on Edgeware Rd, top of Colombo St. I loved the weekly serials.. Batman, Kit Carson, Hopalong Cassidy etc As I grew up Saturday matonees in the Square was the place to be. Superman at the Regent where theyd hoisted a twenty foot cardboard figure of Superman on the roof. Sound Of Music at the State theatre 1965. My school friend and I went to see it seven Saturdays in a row ( it screened at the State for a full year) Jaws at the Savoy 1975, Wonderul World Of The Brothers Grimm at Cinerama 1965, Ten Commandments at the Odeon in Tuam St,…so many memories.

  13. Terry Regan 11 September 2018 / 1:37 pm

    The plans shown are for the “Tivoli’ Theatre in the Square – a complete re-working of ‘Everybody’s’ Theatre on the site, which opened in 1915 (architect Willian Gray Young). Designed by Cecil Wood (with imput from Paul Pascoe), the art-deco Tivoli – ‘modern of the modern’ – opened in 1934.

  14. Sally 12 September 2018 / 2:01 pm

    The Grand, the Crystal Palace,the Liberty.and the Plaza.Cant remember the one that had stars on the roof.

  15. John 23 December 2018 / 10:19 pm

    Stars on the roof = The Regent

  16. Mal 18 February 2019 / 10:45 am

    My workmate and friend said he new all the old picture theatres in ChCh, so I dropped the “Grand” on him. Need I say more?

  17. Tony 24 March 2019 / 1:01 pm

    Saw Hitchcock double feature at the Barclay..”The Wrong Man” and “Strangers On A Train” .

  18. Tony Whitcher 21 September 2019 / 4:45 pm

    First widescreen film I saw was EDGE OF ETERNITY staring Cornel Wilde and directed by Don (Dirty Harry) Siegel…It was in small north island town of Shannon at the Renown cinema, miss the days of the “stand alone” theatres.

  19. BARRY 3 April 2021 / 7:14 pm

    I spent half my life seeing movies 3 times a week at Christchurch cinemas from 1960 till 1993 I know every cinema ,saw movies at everyone the earliest I remember was Hollywood or bust dean Martin Jerry Lewis at the old plaza cinema in cathedral square late 1950s, it’s all gone now just past memories but became almost my whole life really enjoyed every moment

  20. Joseph Austin 8 July 2022 / 8:49 pm

    I saw 3 Amigos at Westen and Labrynth at the Avon .I saw movie at Savoy , can’t remember what , just that the sound system was crap.

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