Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Moving pictures

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Watermark development, replacing Rialto and Wellington MarketsAfter much speculation, there's now a timetable for when the Rialto and Wellington Markets will have to move: according to an article in Wednesday's Dominion Post, "the market building would be demolished before Christmas, while the three cinemas would be vacated by the end of the year."

In my earlier discussions on the subject, I speculated about where the market might move to, but not about the Rialto. While I think most cinemagoers would agree that the current layout and facilities leave a lot to be desired, it would be a huge blow to Wellington if it disappeared entirely. Rialto's owners are actively looking for a replacement location, and while they expect to make an announcement soon, it's hard to imagine where it might go. While the existing theatres aren't huge, I can't think of any existing vacant buildings into which three cinemas could be inserted at short notice, so perhaps it would have to be part of a new development.

There are plenty of development sites just down the road in Wakefield St. The rear of Courtenay Central has supposedly been earmarked for a five-screen Angelika Film Centre complex for some time now, but there's little sign of progress. Across the road, the old service station next to what was until recently the Warehouse is crying out for a productive use, and a combination of cinema, retail and residential could work quite nicely there.

Perhaps it's time to think further afield, and with the surge in residential developments in SoCo, perhaps some of the underutilised sites further up Tory or Taranaki streets could work well. When you think about it, the Cuba Quarter seems a natural place for arthouse cinema, so perhaps some of the vacant sites around Ghuznee St could be worth a look: for example, the corner of Leeds and Ghuznee St, or the land parcels between Bute St and Garrett St that were recently sold. In a sense, moviegoing is an introspective activity that doesn't lend itself to active edges and the other tenets of good urbanism, but cinemas and theatres generate a lot of coming and going, and usually have associated shops and café/bars that bring a lot of activity to the street. Thus, any replacement site should be able to add to its surroundings, and a brand new complex certainly wouldn't go amiss.


At 3:12 pm, August 17, 2007, Blogger Chris D said...

I too would be very glad to see Rialto II - although I enjoy the mix of pictures they show, the theatres themselves are pretty awful. Who wants to pay to watch pictures in an experience that reminds me of wthing the road out the front window of a bus?

I recall some talk at the time of refurbishing the Embassy that there was space for maybe three smaller theatres underneath. I wonder if this is still an option?

At 3:26 pm, August 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe along Thorndon Quay, it seems to have some large buildings that could house a cinema or two. Your certainly right about there being no existing buildings in the CBD that could house 3 cinemas and there is no way a new building will be developed by the Rialto owners, so that rules out the back end of Courtney Central.

At 4:00 pm, August 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sky City owns Embassy also, so adding 2 or 3 screens below the main theatre would be a good fit. Although it should be remembered that sky city corporation has expressed a desire to sell off its underperforming cinema operations, so maybe a large investment might not happen, maybe no more rialto in wellington at all?

Also, Isn't the Building that paramount currently resides up for sale?

But I did hear six months ago that Rialto cinemas were negotiating with Hoyts cinemas to take over the lease at the Regent-on-manners mall complex, which has five screens. Currently it shows mainstream movies at budget prices, which is weird seeing as the christchurch regent-on-worcestor shows mainly art house movies, so I dont get why they changed the name of the manners mall complex and didn't change the type of movies playing??? would be ironic if Rialto moved in and started showing quality movies there, I would probably go there to see them, even without a refurbishment (cant be any worse than the current rialto).

At 4:02 pm, August 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well i'll certainly be happy to see Rialto move out to a "better place" - i just do hope they do reappear somewhere, but without the awful uncomfortable seats, the too-close rows, the glaring exit lights in your eyes, the random pillar that obscures the view, the terrible one sided aisle layout that means the cinema fills up from the wrong side, etc etc. But they do have great films!

Moving to the Regent in Manners Mall would answer many of those points, although it would also have the unfortunate side-effect of having to navigate past the retarded Emo children and mini-Goths that like to gather there and sniff glue and act like spastics. Perhaps they're just emulating scenes from Lars von Trier's "The Idiots" and in reality they may all be highly erudite film students - however, i suspect not.

Perhaps they just need to play Willie Nelson or Dusty Springfield at loud volume outside the door, and that'll get them running back to the 'burbs.


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