Paramount Theatre

25-29A Courtney Place,
Wellington 6003

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Paramount Theatre

The Paramount Theatre is only within a few minutes walk down Courtney Place, from the Embassy Theatre. This theatre was opened on 4th August 1917 with Mary Pickford in “Less than the Dust”. It had 1,511 seats and is one of the oldest cinemas in Wellington. It has always been used to show slightly unusal films and the Film Festival is held here annually. It is not an extremely fancy theatre inside, rather plain. By 2017 two more screens have been added in the downstairs area.

Contributed by Michael Day

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

deleted user
[Deleted] on April 18, 2005 at 2:36 pm

This theatre is currently being renovated, but it is still showing movies at the same time. This theatre is protected by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust with a Grade 2 classification.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on April 18, 2005 at 4:09 pm

The Paramount Theatre opened on 4th August 1917 screening Mary Pickford in “Less than the Dust”. The architect was James Bennie and there were 885 seats in the orchestra stalls and 626 in the circle.

In 1926 the theatre closed for a complete alteration to the interior by the original architect James Bennie and C.A. Martin. The alterations reduced the seating capaity to 1,394 and it re-opened on 20th May 1927 with Cecil B. De Mille’s “The Volga Boatman starring William Boyd. In 1934 a Wurlitzer organ was installed. It had originally been shipped from the USA in 1927 and installed in the Paramount Theatre, Nelson. NZ in 1928 but was removed from that theatre in July 1928 when it was taken over by another company and re-named the Regent.

The interior was re-designed yet again by architect James Bennie in 1943, but due to war-time restrictions, not all the plans were carried out and this may give the rather plain look that the theatre has today.

Even more drastic alterations were carried out in 1961 when the circle was floored forward to the proscenium to create a 710 cinema, whilst the orchestra level was converted into offices. The facade remains virtually unaltered since its 1927 make-over.

deleted user
[Deleted] on April 26, 2005 at 2:53 pm

This theatre is currently undergoing restoration. At the same time as showing movies. The theatre’s website has photo’s of the renovations.

I think they are trying to turn the theatre back to it’s original 1917 glory. The most ornate theatres here in Wellington are the State Opera House (1913) and the lovely St James Theatre (1912) both are now used for opera, ballet and symphony concerts and stage shows and live theatre.

mrt1924 on August 25, 2005 at 12:11 pm

The renovations are finished now. I don’t know what the theatre looks like inside now?

kencmcintyre on January 10, 2009 at 12:03 pm

May 2008 article about digital cinema and the Paramount:

Mark747 on March 13, 2010 at 3:53 pm

Historical information and photos on the Paramount:
View link

itinerama on March 18, 2012 at 11:37 pm

I used to work at this cinema,as did my mother,in the fifties before it was reduced in size.The cinema was in the circle and there was a TAB downstairs with a seperate entrance.I remember seeing The Hogarth Puppets there when I was a kid.Seeing all those European films there gave me a great appreciation of Foreign films. It was a pity they changed over to double features and then reduced the size.They had wanted to put seats down the side walls from the balcony to the stalls floor. (in the fifties)I remember seeing the plan for this but it never went ahead.

itinerama on February 3, 2017 at 7:48 pm

In 2014 I met a lady on a local community social bus outing in Sydney, Australia. She worked at the Paramount in the fifties at the same time as my mother did.I also worked there as a kid at the same time( in my mother’s confectionary shop).We had as lot to talk about We knew all the same people in the film industry. My mother had two shops,one on the ground floor next to the entrance and ticket box. There was another one on the first floor. There was also a second ticket box on the ground floor but it was rarely used.How is that for an amazing coincidence? We still see each other about once a month ,on these social outings. Naturally, the Paramount always enters our discussions .Having lived in Australia for the past 50 years,I only ever went back inside the cinema once during the seventies.In another coincidence, I was in the same class at school with David Lascelles. He later wrote 80 Turbulent Years which was a history of the Paramount cinema from 1917 until 1997. I also happened to run into David when I visited the cinema during a film festival. Having ceased working at the Paramount when it was cut in half in 1961,I continued working at four other Wellington cinemas Kings,Plaza,State/Cinerama and Tudor/Lido until I moved to Australia in 1967.I understand that the Paramount was the last city cinema to install cinemascope.A few years go I also got in contact with an usher who worked at the Paramount about the same time as I did. She now lives in Melbourne.

itinerama on June 19, 2017 at 8:58 pm

Two smaller cinemas have been built in the downstairs area.The main cinema is on the first floor level. The cinema celebrates it centenary on 4 August 2017.

itinerama on August 4, 2017 at 8:28 pm

Happy 100th birthday Paramount.Sad to see that you may be closing in the near future. I enjoyed working there in the mid fifties .

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