Groovy movies - New Zealand's best indie theatres

There is something really special about going to an independent cinema, something beyond the quirky films it’s likely to be showing.

Auckland is speckled with quality indie cinemas, sprinkled throughout the suburbs like beacons of worldly culture and cosiness. Art house aficionados flock to the Capitol, Lido, Academy, and Bridgeway cinemas – or into the city to the Auckland Library Basement.

Unsurprisingly Wellington has a high cinema–to-civilian ratio too, with the Penthouse in Brooklyn, the Roxy in Miramar, Empire in Island Bay and the Capital’s best kept secret: Time Cinema in Sutherland Road, Lyall Bay.

But like a good film that stays with you, the experience of watching a film at the Dome in Gisborne is particularly memorable. Housed in the historic Poverty Bay Club, which was a ‘gentlemen’s club’ for 120 years, movies are screened in the former billiards room. Wood panelling and a sumptuous domed stained glass ceiling are set off by two gigantic red ribbon lanterns created by acclaimed designer Katy Wallace.

Ruby red carpet and a plush bar next door with historic trophies, crystal and feathers bestow a sense of the building’s grand history. The stunning atmosphere is the brainchild of Gisborne entrepreneur Sally Shanks, whose textiles business The Formary provided wool for the huge bean bags that replace typical cinema seats.

From the east coast in the north to the west coast in the south, The Regent in Greymouth has its own dramatic history.

When it opened in 1935 the Grey Star proudly claimed that should an earthquake hit, patrons could “sit tight” with confidence in the strong and functional art deco curves. The building has been a mainstay of the local arts scene on the West Coast over decades, and back in the day was seen as ‘classy’ by locals, many of whom had their favourite seats on permanent reserve for Friday or Saturday nights.

In the 1950s and 1960s dances were held after the movies but in the 1970s the building was sold to owners of a metalware factory who gutted the interior, only to go out of business a few years later.

But loyal locals rallied to restore The Regent to its rightful role and it became a venue for live theatre again. Today you can watch a film in the purpose built cinemas in this grand old building.