Wellington Scoop

More screens in Lower Hutt, fewer in Wellington

by Lindsay Shelton
Will the Readings plan to reopen three cinemas in High Street be enough to start resuscitating Lower Hutt’s dead heart? Maybe High Street is beyond rescuing, but the three cinemas will have another result – they’ll divert some Hutt Valley moviegoers from coming into Wellington to see the newest releases.

As reported by the DomPost, Readings have signed a three-year lease to reopen three Lower Hutt cinemas in the former Hoyts multiplex – which is now owned by the Baptist Church.

Digital projection and sound equipment is being installed, with new screens, new seats and new carpet.


The church will use one of the auditoriums for its Sunday morning services. For the rest of the week, Readings will be screening films in all three of them, starting in July.

This gives them the edge over Event Cinemas, which has only just started rebuilding its multiplex at Queensgate – three years after the quake damaged building was demolished. Queensgate’s new seven screen cinema is due to open in 2021, by which time Readings will have had three years to establish their business in High Street.

Lower Hutt will soon have more big screen venues than Wellington, where there’s been no indication that Readings have decided what to do with their Courtenay Place ten-screen multiplex, which was closed last year because of earthquake risk. Readings told investors this month that it is “laser focused” on re-inventing the Courtenay Central complex, but there were no details. It wasn’t even clear whether the building would be demolished or strengthened.

The Courtenay Central closure has left the Embassy as the only big screen cinema in central Wellington, creating a shortage of venues and a shortfall of revenue for the distributors of blockbuster movies. The sudden reduction in entertainment choices should be a concern for the Wellington City Council, which surely needs to ensure the continuing appeal of the Courtenay Place party zone. (As well as dealing with the consequences of Wellington’s own dead heart, around Civic Square.)

The Embassy is not only the city’s only big-screen venue for mass-audience movies. It’s also the home of Wellington’s annual film festival, which begins its 47th season at the end of July. After the closure of the Paramount (something which should also have concerned the council), the film festival had been using Readings as an important second venue. The lack of the Readings cinemas is likely to force the film festival to present a reduced programme in Wellington this year.

DomPost: Status quo for High St not an option


  1. Traveller, 27. May 2019, 12:31

    Lower Hutt people always used to ‘come into town’ to see movies. No longer, it seems.

  2. lindsay, 27. May 2019, 12:47

    Ironic that it was Queensgate which caused the collapse of High Street. And now High Street is fighting back?

  3. Brendan, 27. May 2019, 13:34

    I travel out to the Petone Lighthouse Cinema because it’s easy to drive there and park the car.

  4. Andrew, 27. May 2019, 18:32

    The original Hoyts mall never really took off, it will be interesting to see if this area is included in the reopening. I forget the name, but there used to be a great lane north of Hoyts which had a great sport store and best of all, the doughnut shop. As for Queensgate…

  5. Andy, 28. May 2019, 19:08

    The great lane was/is Queens Arcade, and the sports store was the Sports Den, now located at the Queens Drive end of Queens Arcade. The donut shop was GOLD. Gone now. Bring back the mid 80s!

  6. K, 29. May 2019, 15:10

    Despite the disrespect they usually got from film snobs, it’s nice to see some longing for the Readings/Event/Hoyts multi-plexes now that they are absent; after all they really do fill a need in the community.
    Having said that, it is great seeing the revival of the suburban cinema! Take a trip out to the Roxy (Miramar), Empire (island bay), Penthouse (Brooklyn) or Lighthouse (Petone/Cuba etc) and you will see them humming along 7 days a week. Even the Embassy probably needed the jolt in the arm that it’s getting.