by Lindsay Shelton
The Wellington City Council has owned the Embassy Theatre for years. So why can’t it fix the lights?
A third of the lights on the facade aren’t working, and the centre ones are way out of alignment. It’s been like this for weeks – a disgrace for a landmark building which is the focus of Courtenay Place.
You’d think the city council would take pride in ensuring that the Embassy always looked at its best. But the lights on the Embassy have been going out every year. And I’ve become a bit obsessed by their continual failure.
Like most Wellingtonians, I have a soft spot for the Embassy. I went to movies there when I was a teenager. I was proud when the Wellington Film Festival moved in. Then I joined the Trust that was set up by Bill Sheat to save and restore the beautiful old building when no one else wanted it. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh were among the members, and a lot of the elaborate restoration work was carried out by Weta Workshop. We worked like maniacs for six years to raise money. Finally we transferred ownership to the city council – that was the deal when it agreed to pay to complete the job in time for the world premiere of the third Lord of the Rings.
When we handed over the building, the lights were perfectly adjusted. But within a couple of years, some of them started to go out, and the council never seemed to notice. The faulty lights have looked particularly bad during several film festivals, when the theatre should have been at its best.
Once, when I couldn’t find anyone on the staff to pay attention, I rang the mayor. (It was Kerry Prendergast in those days). She probably thought my complaint was mis-directed, but she ensured that everything was fixed within 24 hours.
A couple of years ago I met a council officer who agreed that he was the responsible person. He promised to ensure that the lights would be monitored. Unfortunately, I’ve mislaid his card. So this article is a plea to him or to anyone else at the council who’s responsible for changing light bulbs. It should be a matter of pride. The lights need fixing. The Embassy is looking grotty at night. It should be a building that the city is proud of, rather than one that shows signs of being neglected.