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Part of Positively Wellington Venues
The St. James Theatre: 77 - 87 Courtenay Place, Wellington, New Zealand.
Ph: +64 4 802 4060 Fax: +64 4 801 4277
email: info@pwv.co.nz
Website: www.pwv.co.nz


St James Theatre from Courtenay Place.

The original theatre is on the left, while a new building housing public spaces and entrances to the theatre is on the right.


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View from balcony






The theatre (formerly His Majesty's) was designed for John Fuller and Sons Ltd. by Mr Henry Eli White Architect, structural engineer and contractor. (See the Grand for another White designed Theatre in Petone)

It was the first steel framed, concrete coated proscenium arched theatre in the southern hemisphere. The steel frame allowed for an unsupported 80 ft span roof structure and also provided good resistance to earthquake damage.

The theatre boasts a Edwardian facade and inside a large shallow domed auditorium of “Theatrical Rococo” style derived from Louis XIV, modelled plaster work decorated box fronts, parapets, proscenium and gallery. White aimed to design a theatre with “a clear vision line from every seat”. He achieved this managing to have only 3 columns in the stalls, the circle being cantilevered on massive steel beams. The theatre was designed primarily as a picture house but could also accommodate live shows.

sj02.jpgHis Majesty’s opened on 26 December 1912 with a picture screening to a full house. Until the '30s there were many live vaudeville shows there and the theatre came to be known as “Fullers”. In 1930 the theatre was ‘wired for sound’ and functioned through until the '40s predominantly as a picture house.

The 1960s brought television and reduced audiences for the St. James. In the 1970s shows at the St. James were rare and the theatre fell into disrepair. By 1982 Kerridge owned the Embassy, the Regent, the Majestic and the St. James. The Regent was demolished and replaced by the multiplex Regent Centre built in its place. The Majestic and St. James were placed on the market.

In 1986 Kerridge abandoned screenings at the St James and the theatre was bought by Chase Corporation who considered the theatre stood on a prime redevelopment site - in September 1986 they applied for a demolition permit. The “save the St. James” campaign set about securing heritage protection for the theatre and a notice was placed on it 2 weeks after the demolition application.

The St James is under category 1 of the Historic places Act 1993 as ‘a place of special or outstanding historical or cultural significance and value’. In 1988 Chase went into receivership and under the direction of the receivers the Wellington City Council and International Festival continued to use the theatre periodically.

In November 1993 Wellington City Council announced they would take over the theatre and set up the St. James Theatre Charitable Trust, who are the current owners. They set about to implement the objectives under the trust deed to ‘conserve the heritage value of the theatre building’ and to adapt the building to enable it to operate as a viable theatre venue to foster and encourage the performing Arts community.

In July 1995 Phil Conroy and Roger Shand of Shand Shelton Ltd. put a proposal to the council as part of the total development of the theatre including conservation and adaptation of the auditorium, a new stage house and next door theatre foyers and bars and a purpose built home for new long term tenants the Royal New Zealand Ballet.(www.nzballet.org.nz)

Mainzeal Property and Construction won the contract for the development and engaged Opus International Architects do outline drawings to interpret the Shand Shelton concept and brief into working drawings. Everything behind the proscenium arch is new!

Work began December 1996. The theatre reopened in February 1988 in time for the International Festival of the Arts.
(notes by Kirsty Chamberlain Dec 97)





Designer's Tips

  • The fly-floors are concrete floored, with NO penetration. The PS flyfloor has a steel tube (50mm dia) pack frame against it to protect the flying system, and obviously the lines run up the wall to the grid, but the OP floor has no structure or feature to fix or hang anything from.
  • FOH lighting positions are not ideal. It is possible to place booms in the four top boxes, and rig off those. Alternatively you can rig a FOH truss.
  • There is no equipment, tools, rigging, lighting or sound gear or anything else in the theatre - you need to bring everything in with you.
  • There are no control rooms for lighting or sound - consoles are usually operated from the rear of the stalls.

updates, comments etc: venues@venueweb.co.nz

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St James stage




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PLAN DOWNLOADS - revision date 05/07

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St James Long Section - 1:100 @ A1
St James plan - 1:100 @ A1
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St James dwg - Revision date: 05/07



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This page last updated Sunday, December 2, 2012