Nov 28, 2009

Hokitika sets pace in movie technology |

A revamped theatre in Hokitika is leading the way in New Zealand cinema.

Three years ago the town's Regent Theatre nearly closed as the 1930s art deco building fell into disrepair.

'The then committee thought that it was beyond economic repair and decided to put it up for sale,' said Bruce Watson, chairman of the Westland Community Centre Incorporated, which owns the theatre on behalf of the people of the district.

'This triggered a community crisis which galvanised the whole community. There was a huge upsurge of support for the project.'

Watson said the best way to guarantee the theatre's future was to install state-of-the-art projection and sound equipment.

It was now the first theatre in New Zealand to have converted completely to mainstream digital projection and 3D.

Film distributors brought only a limited number of film prints into the country, which were snapped up by big cinemas in the large centres before going to rural areas, he said. This meant films were often released on DVD before they got to Hokitika. As a result, cinemagoer numbers had dwindled.

However, the new digital projector made it easier and cheaper for distributors to supply the theatre with hard-drive copies of films, so it could show new releases at the same time as cinemas in the main centres.

Watson said the XpanD 3D system, which will play to the public for the first time today, put it streets ahead of other cinemas.

'There's only about 13 other 3D theatres in New Zealand and they are mostly in the big centres and use other systems. It's the first time (XpanD) has been installed in the country.

'For a building that was written off three years ago, it's been revalued at over $3 million, which shows what we might otherwise have lost.'

About $800,000 had been spent on the theatre, plus 20,000 hours of volunteer work from local people.

Development West Coast had granted $340,000 with a further $570,000 to follow."