Wellington Scoop

Engineers identify seismic dangers on cinema levels at Readings

News from WCC
Wellington City Council senior staff have been kept informed over the past few days by representatives of Reading New Zealand about Reading’s decision to close the Courtenay Central site last weekend.

Staff have briefed the Mayor and Councillors about the situation.

The Council’s Business Engagement Manager Phil Becker says Reading’s engineers have identified several discrete areas on the cinema levels of the building that may perform at an unacceptable level during a major earthquake. The issues are not a result of damage from the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.

Following the receipt of the draft engineering report, the Company instructed their engineers to conduct further investigations to refine and better understand their preliminary engineering assessments. Those further investigations are underway. Reading closed the building as a precautionary measure to facilitate them.

As the areas of concern are contained wholly within the building, engineers have confirmed that there is no increased risk to neighbouring properties or people in Courtenay Place.

Mr Becker says the Council fully understands and appreciates Reading’s position and the company’s priority is the safety and wellbeing of its patrons, employees and tenants. The Company will continue to provide information to Courtenay Central tenants and their staff.

Mr Becker added that “we are very comfortable with Reading’s responsible approach to this situation. The company has kept the City Council informed about its ongoing engineering investigations – and we appreciate the company and its consultants are working as quickly as possible to both get a better understanding of and reach important decisions relating to the building.”

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester says Reading Cinemas have done the right thing in putting occupant safety first and closing the complex once they became aware of the engineers’ findings. “I am happy there are no risks to pedestrians on Courtenay Place. Hopefully a satisfactory engineering solution can be found quickly and the cinema can be reopened.”

Wellington.Scoop – January 5
Reading Cinemas have today closed their building in Courtenay Place because of concerns about earthquake risk. The operators say:

We have received a report from independent engineers which, while in draft, discloses a potential risk in parts of our Courtenay Central Reading cinemas if a seismic event were to occur.

The safety and wellbeing of our patrons, staff and tenants is of the utmost importance to us and as such out of an abundance of caution we have taken action to close the building until further notice while the assessment is completed.

Pre purchase ticketholders can redeem their tickets at Readings Porirua by presenting your booking ticket or alternatively you can email us at info@readingcinemas.co.nz for a full refund.

RNZ quotes a Wellington City Council spokesperson as saying the footpath outside the Reading building would not be closed. He said the council was happy with the decision to close the complex as investigations continue. The council’s business engagement manager Phil Becker said it was in contact with the cinema operator. “Their engineers have raised concerns about the potential risk in a seismic event beyond what was anticipated,” he said.

The closure of Readings leaves the Embassy as the only big cinema in the Wellington CBD, with 700 seats in its main auditorium. It also has two small cinemas, and the Lighthouse in Cuba Street has three small cinemas. In the suburbs, the state-of-the-art Roxy in Miramar has two screens (164 seats and 55 seats), the Empire in Island Bay also has two, and the Penthouse in Brooklyn has two mid-size cinemas (167 and 168 seats) one smaller one (66 seats) and one tiny one with 30 seats. There are ten cinemas in the Reading complex (total capacity 2190 in auditoriums ranging from 123 to 486 seats) that is now closed.


  1. Blacklight, 5. January 2019, 12:29

    I feel so sorry for the team at Reading Courtenay after a great comeback, and being a great NZIFF venue this year, they’re confounded again. What a bugger. Hope this is short-lived as we have a screen shortage now! [via twitter]

  2. Alana, 5. January 2019, 22:36

    I agree with Blacklight – terrible for all the people working there who may now be jobless. We’ve lost the Paramount (after 100 years!) through neglect, and so many more around town. The Roxy and the Penthouse are good venues but out of the CBD.

  3. City Lad, 6. January 2019, 12:14

    The Embassy Theatre Trust established in 1997 purchased the Embassy Theatre on Kent Terrace from Brierley Investments Ltd. Brierley had intended making this the headquarters for NZ Ballet. Now council owned and earthquake strengthened, the Embassy’s future is assured. Perhaps Reading Cinemas in Courtenay Place are struggling to survive due to their frequent vacant retail space and having too many cinemas. It’s concerning for this sudden evacuation notice being given to their tenants and the public. An explanation is required.

  4. Mrs Paranoid, 6. January 2019, 17:08

    Close NZ now. 100% earthquake risk somewhere sometime.

  5. Iona Pannett, 6. January 2019, 21:45

    WCC will be working with the owners of Courtenay Central to get it open again as soon as possible. Hard on the small business owners but public safety is critical. [via twitter]

  6. Heidi P, 7. January 2019, 7:09

    You cannot offer or provide public safety in the event of a big earthquake, so all this carry on is nonsense.

  7. Anabel, 7. January 2019, 8:26

    But Iona, public safety is not guaranteed and cannot be provided by the WCC in the event of earthquakes or natural disasters. So closing businesses is mistaken or what we call “wrong action”.

  8. Traveller, 10. January 2019, 19:18

    The city council’s remarks today seem to be trying to downplay a very serious situation.

  9. Andrew, 10. January 2019, 22:42

    Seems fitting. Remember the ‘open for business’ remark after the Kaikoura earthquake?

  10. Daily Pnut, 11. January 2019, 6:27

    Sounds bogus – the WCC claims the building is unsafe and at the same time says the footpath outside the building would not be closed. It’s either safe or unsafe it can’t be both.
    Not one building may perform at an unacceptable level during a major earthquake. It’s a fact the WCC is conveniently ignoring while running their silly scheme.