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 THE PARAMOUNT THEATRE

 

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The Paramount Theatre: 25 Courtenay Place, Wellington, New Zealand.
Phone (04) 384-4488. Fax (04) 384-4408.

 

para01.jpgThe oldest surviving cinema in Wellington, and still has its original name.
Once a part of Te Aro beach, the site of the Paramount was purchased by John James Williamson in August 1916. He contracted the Architect James Bennie to design a picture house. It was to be a steel framed 2 storey concrete building, with the picture house behind the theatre entrance, shops and offices on the street facade.

The theatre had a full orchestra pit and provided seating for 885 downstairs and 626 in the circle. The picture house opened on Saturday 4 August 1917 with the ‘Less than Dust’ starring Mary Pickford and supplied by Paramount film services.

The theatre was owned by Kerridge who formed the Paramount theatre Company who leased it to various tenants over the years. In the 1920s it underwent various renovations including PARAMOVNT being carved in the facade and ’wiring up’ the theatre for talking movies. The first "talking picture" shown in New Zealand was at the Paramount on March 6th, 1929.

In the 1950s live shows started being performed at the Paramount and in 1953 Wellington City Council bought the theatre with the intention of making it a civic theatre for the likes of repertory productions.

In 1960 the theatre was bought by a group of prominent Chinese businessmen and they initiated major renovations. The ground floor was converted into public offices, levelling and concreting over the orchestra pt and changing the interior beyond recognition. The smaller Paramount was again solely a picture house but what with the introduction of television these were lean times for moving pictures. In 1966 the theatre closed with its future uncertain. However with new keen tenants it reopened in May 1967.

During the 1970s film festivals were screened at the Paramount, raising its profile somewhat. The theatre survived the 70s and 80s but was forced to close in 1990, again its future uncertain.
It was then leased to Paragon Arts who commissioned Architects John Duncan and Tommy Honey to oversee theatre renovations with the idea of recapturing more of the original feeling of the place. The theatre was converted into a venue for both film and live theatre shows.

The stage is in front of the movie screen on top of what was once the orchestra pit, space behind the screen became actors dressing rooms. A small but functional lighting grid was also installed. The new theatre seats 600. The renovated theatre reopened in November 1990 in major debt. It stumbled on mainly as a movie venue until December 1993 when again it was forced to close.

A new tenant Kerry Robins took over and the theatre opened again just in time for the 1994 International Festival of the Arts. The Paramount today is in a healthy state and continues to run primarily as an art house type movie theatre hosting various festivals including the incredibly strange and queer film festivals. The International Festival of the Arts regularly uses the Paramount as one of its main live venues.

(notes by Kirsty Chamberlain Dec 97)

 

 
Free CAD drawing Viewer
All you need to view and print any drawing on this site with step by step instructions
 
   

Click image to view panorama from rear of auditorium

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Click image to view panorama from centre stage

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A 4 or later browser is required with Java enabled. Once the image fully loads (which may take a little while depending on the speed of your connection) it will automatically begin panning and you may then interactively view it.

 

 
 
   

Designer's Tips

If you are a lighting or set designer who has worked in this venue and have something to contribute: venues@venueweb.co.nz

  • Getin to the theatre is difficult - either through the public entrances off Countenay Place, or up steel fire exit stairs into the auditorium - doors 1.400m wide by 1.900m high.
 
Free CAD drawing Viewer
All you need to view and print any drawing on this site with step by step instructions
   
View basic plans of the venue
Paramount plan. Revision date:  15/11/01
Download 2d dwg file of the venue.
paramnt.dwg (33k) Revision date:  15/11/01

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Clicking on the above icon will open a two colour gif plan of the venue. The gif plan is optimised to print on landscape A4 paper direct from the browser.
    Use this option for a quick preview of the venue plan, or if you have no CAD software. It shows a basic plan of the venue, but will lack detail, is missing text, and information on layers that are not shown - check with the CAD screen shot icon at right to compare this drawing with the info available in the actual CAD file. 
   Once printed, you might want to check the scale, and mess about with a photocopier to get the drawing into some kind of usable size.

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Clicking on the above icon will allow you to download a release 12 format CAD plan of the venue.

You can view and edit it in your CAD program, or alternatively you can download it, then view and print it in this free drawing viewer.

   See CAD Viewer Tutorial for step by step instructions.
   See About the Drawings for more information on the CAD drawings.
   See About CAD programs for information on various CAD programs, links to sites where you can download one, and tutorials on viewing these drawings in several different CAD programs.

Drawing Notes:n/a

 
   

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This page last updated Thursday, December 4, 2003