Just as Manners Street is being ripped up (with the sort of silliness which means that the sunny side of the street will have the smallest width of footpath) it’s perhaps timely to have a think about the role the road has played in Wellington’s history.
Just after the turn of the century (when Perrett’s chemist still adorned the corner where Manners St and Willis St meet), was the beginning of the era of purpose-built picture theatres internationally.
The King’s Theatre on Dixon St was New Zealand’s first. It opened in early 1910 on the corner of Dixon and Egmont St (where one of those tiresome Chase buildings currently stands), the poor King’s dying the death that so much of Wellington’s older architecture suffered at the hands of overzealous 1980s developers under the blessing of Michael Fowler’s mayoralty.
The Majestic (1925)
While Dixon Street was the first site of newly built cinema, it was the vicinity Manners St and Willis Street where the picture theatre really hit town. Willis Street was home to Shortt’s Picture Theatre (Larkin, 1911) and to the Aldephi, later the Empress (Hoggard & Prouse, 1912), and then the site of the Majestic (in 1925). But it was Manners Street which was (by today’s standards) chocker-block with cinema. In the 1910s there were at least four picture theatres. The earliest seems to have been the New Theatre at 58 Manners St (Crighton, McKay & Haughton, 1911). It was a conversion of the Old Federal Billard Saloon, and would later become the Princess Picture Theatre.
The New Theatre was closely followed by the People’s Picture Palace at 17 Manners St, designed by Natush & Sons in 1912, and the Britannia Picture Theatre at no. 9 – another Hoggard & Prouse cinema design, which would become the Roxy in later years.
The Britannia (9 Manner St, 1912: centre left)
Roxy Picture Theatre
In 1914 Everybody’s Picture Theatre at 73 Manners St arrived on the scene. Everybody’s become the Regent, just over a decade later with the Llewellyn Williams (with Cedric H. Ballantyne) 1926 design.
Everybody’s Theatre (73 Manners Street, 1914: right centre)
The Regent Theatre (73 Manners St, 1926)
William’s Embassy on Kent Terrace has survived intact much longer, but the Regent is the last wiff of cinematic excitement that graced Manners Street over one hundred years of its history.
The Plaza (Manners St & Pringle Ave, 4 August 1934)