Mar 10, 2008

The Queen's Theatre

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Opened on the 31st of October 1912 by the Mayor of Christchurch, the city's first purpose built cinema occupies the Hereford Street site of the 1853 home of William Sefton Moorhouse.

Owned by the Melburnian theatrical impresario James F MacMahon, a competition to a name the cinema was held by The Press newspaper, with a first prize of five Guineas. Seating 934 patrons, films were shown continuously from 11 am to 11 pm.

McMahon had exhibited the first projected motion picture shown to a paying Christchurch audience in November 1896. His Salon Cinématographe in High Street near the Cashel Street intersection almost certainly screened the 1896 Melbourne Cup race on that occasion.

In 1929 the twenty-five year-old Royal Exchange building in Cathedral Square was refurbished as the Regent Theatre, thereby obliging McKenzie & Willis Ltd to find new premises. The furniture retailers acquired the Queen's Theatre, which closed on the 5th of January 1929.

In 1935 the former cinema underwent significant redevelopment. Although the original ceiling and the stairway to the Dress Circle were left intact, a fourth floor was added and the Neo-classic Hereford Street frontage (to the Right in the top Left image) was replaced with the surviving Art Deco facade.

The long, narrow building was subsequently refurbished and linked to the Colombo Street Kincaid building in the 1950s as the McKenzie & Willis Arcade. More recently acquired by the Auckland Savings Bank, the ground floor is partially occupied by a 24/7 convenience store.

In 2003 the Theatre and Film Department of the University of Canterbury took the vacant upper floors as teaching, rehearsal and performance space. Residential facilities for post-graduate students are also provided.

See the Queen's Theatre location

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