Historic Place Category 2
CT OT140/63 appears to have an incorrect legal description. It refers to Pt Allot 10, DP 911 (instead of DP 94). Checks of DPs confirm the correct one is DP 94.
King Edward Street was previously known as Hillside Road. Hillside Road is the name used on the Certificates of Title.
Pt Lots 10-13 DP 94 (CTs OT140/8, OT140/63, OT140/181), Otago Land District
Extent of Registration
Registration includes the land described as Pt Lots 10-13, DP 94 (CTs OT140/8, OT140/63, OT140/181) Otago Land District, and the building and its fixtures and fittings thereon. The interior plaster work is of particular significance.
The King Edward Picture Theatre, opened in 1914, in the suburb of South Dunedin, is the oldest surviving purpose built picture theatre in Dunedin, and perhaps the third oldest surviving in New Zealand. The interior of the two storey brick theatre expresses the romance and escapism of early cinema going, with its ornate plaster interior. The theatre has been a community venue for over ninety years, and is an important survivor of the early picture theatres in New Zealand.
The first motion pictures were shown in theatres designed for live performance. In New Zealand, the first purpose built picture theatre opened in March 1910. Henry Hayward (1865-1945) who was to play a pivotal part in the film industry in New Zealand, saw films as the 'poor man's theatre', providing an 'antidote to cruel economic and social injustices [bringing] happiness, contentment and forgetfulness.'
The King Edward Picture Theatre Company was formed in 1914 with shareholders from among Dunedin's most prominent businessmen: the Hudson family; brewers Charles Speight, and Robert and Charles Greenslade, solicitor Alfred James, gentleman James Brown (the largest shareholder), cordial manufacturer Josiah Lane, and dentist Albert Blakely.
Dunedin architect Edward Walter Walden (d.1944) appears to be the designer of the theatre. Walden was articled with James Hislop and took over Hislop's practice on his death in 1904. Walden designed the Carnegie Public Library, and, according to his obituary, for some of the early picture theatres in Dunedin.
Local tradespeople made a significant contribution to the new cinema, particularly the plaster work. The fibrous plasterer is not mentioned by name but the quality of work is very similar to that produced in Everybody's Theatre (opened 1915, with Walden the architect, and with Robert Wardrop's firm responsible for the fibrous plaster). Robert Wardrop (1858-1924) was well known for the quality of his plaster work, and in the early days of the company in Dunedin, was working alone in his field, and it seems likely that Wardrop completed the plaster work.
The 862 seat King Edward Picture Theatre opened on 7 December 1914. The Otago Daily Times reporter judged the buildings as 'a distinct addition to the architecture of the south end.' The Theatre was a popular venue, with one woman recalling that ‘almost half of South Dunedin' would go to the pictures on a Saturday night, and some families had permanently booked seats.
By the late 1920s the advances in technology introduced the talkies into New Zealand with the corresponding need to adapt existing cinemas. In 1934 the King Edward Picture Theatre was modernised and renamed the Mayfair Theatre.
By the early 1960s there was concern about the future of picture theatres, because of the impact of television. Virtually all small towns and most city suburbs lost their local cinema. The Mayfair Theatre ceased screenings as a cinema on 25 September 1966. The Dunedin Opera Company purchased the building in October 1967. The Opera Company converted it into a live venue with seating for 413.
The King Edward Picture Theatre (Former) is constructed of brick in neo-classical style typical of the picture theatres designed in the Edwardian period. There is extensive ornate decorative plasterwork both in the foyer and in the auditorium. The main auditorium of the theatre is located at the level of the picture theatre's original dress circle. The walls and ceiling carry on the ornate plaster detailing found in the foyer. The original ornately detailed proscenium arch is located over the stage, and features cherubs and presumably a king's crown as the prominent motifs. Above the proscenium arch is the ornately plastered octagonal dome in the ceiling, an outstanding feature of the interior.
The King Edward Picture Theatre has aesthetic, architectural, cultural, historical and social significance. The theatre is an example of the architecture associated with early purpose built picture theatres, and their subsequent adaptation to changing uses and technologies. The exuberant plaster work in the interior of the theatre has special aesthetic significance. The plaster work in the foyer is elaborate and bold foreshadowing the even more exuberant detailing of the auditorium. The decoration is consistent with the idea of picture theatres, and of early silent films themselves being an escape into a fantasy world. The Theatre has cultural significance as an early cinema built for the entertainment of South Dunedin cinema-going public and as a venue for the Dunedin Opera Society and many other cultural events. The Theatre has historical significance as an early surviving picture theatre. The King Edward Picture Theatre has social significance as a major place of gathering and interaction for the South Dunedin community, for its over fifty year use as a cinema, and subsequently the last 40 years as a live theatre venue.
Since its 1967 the Theatre has been used by theatre, school and community groups. In 2008 discussion continues on the future of the former King Edward Picture Theatre and the building continues to be used as a theatre.
The former King Edward Picture Theatre has historical significance as an early surviving picture theatre. The Theatre was built four years after the first purpose built picture theatre, Wellington's Kings Theatre (opened in Wellington in 1910 and demolished in 1986). The Theatre is significant within Dunedin as the only surviving early twentieth century suburban picture theatre in the city.
The place has historical significance for its decades-long association with two of the country's largest picture theatre chains; initially with Fuller-Hayward (an amalgamation of two early New Zealand cinema and picture-distribution interests).
The change of use (and the associated alterations), and the change of ownership of the Theatre show the change in the cinema in New Zealand from the first decade of the twentieth century, into the twenty first century. Opened in the era of silent film it was adapted for talkies in the 1930s, and its subsequent alteration to a live theatre in the late 1960s reflects the decline of attendance at cinemas through the twentieth century.
The exuberant plaster work in the interior of the theatre, likely to have been completed by Robert Waldrop, has special aesthetic significance. The plaster work in the foyer is elaborate and bold and makes a significant impact on patrons, foreshadowing the even more exuberant detailing of the auditorium. The auditorium with its original proscenium arch, on which are perched two cherubic boys, and the flanking caryatid figures is spectacular. The octagonal dome in the already ornamented ceiling is an outstanding feature, its serene female faces gazing placidly towards the audience below. The decoration is consistent with the idea of picture theatres, and of early silent films themselves being an escape into a fantasy world.
The former King Edward Picture Theatre has architectural significance as a representative example of an early purpose built picture theatre, particularly in its exuberant interior decoration. Its subsequent alteration first for talking films, and then for live theatre performances illustrate the changing use of the building over this period. Architect E.W. Walden was involved in other designs for early picture theatres in Dunedin. Most early purpose built picture theatres in Dunedin have been demolished, making the King Edward Picture Theatre a more significant survivor locally, and nationally as possibly the 3rd oldest.
The theatre retains much of its handsome ornate interior plasterwork, and its basic layout from the early period of use. The alterations to the auditorium have, however, limited its ability to illustrate internal layout of the auditorium.
The former King Edward Picture Theatre has cultural significance as an early cinema built for the entertainment and information of South Dunedin' cinema-going public. It also has cultural significance as the venue for the Dunedin Opera Society and many other cultural and theatrical events over its forty year history as a live theatre venue.
The King Edward Picture Theatre has social significance as a major place of gathering and interaction for the South Dunedin community, for its over fifty year use as a cinema, and subsequently the last 40 years as a live theatre venue.
This place has been assessed for, and found to possess aesthetic, architectural, cultural, historical and social significance or value.
Summary of Assessed Criteria
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria:
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
The former King Edward Picture Theatre has significance for reflecting important aspects of New Zealand cinema history. It represents the era of the first silent movies. Its subsequent redevelopment to allow for the talkies reflects the changes in the cinema industry over this period. The decline of the theatre in the 1960s, as television gained in popularly, is also representative of the history of cinema in New Zealand.
The Theatre reflects the importance of cinema as popular public entertainment, and the significance of film as a medium for relaying news and current events before the introduction of television.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:
The former King Edward Picture Theatre has an association with three extremely prominent Dunedin business families. Seven members of the Hudson family (the sons and widow of Richard Hudson (1841-1903), whose highly successful company would later merge to form the Cadbury Schweppes Hudson conglomerate) were shareholders. Members of the Greenslade and the Speight families were shareholders. All these families were associated with the foundation of iconic Dunedin company Speight's Brewery involved in the theatre from its inception until its sale to the Dunedin Opera Company in 1967.
The King Edward Picture Theatre is associated with Dunedin architect E.W. Walden, known for his work which included the Dunedin Carnegie library and Everybody's Theatre. It is also thought to be associated with pioneering fibrous plasterer Robert Wardrop and his firm the Dunedin Fibrous Plaster Company.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place:
The community has a strong association with the former King Edward Picture Theatre. As the suburban movie theatre for South Dunedin it had a decade's long association with the local community and holds a special place in the history of that area. For forty years it has been a live performance venue, and has a long association of community use from groups such as scouts and local schools, who use it to stage their productions.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:
The design of the former King Edward Picture Theatre is significant as a surviving example of design of early picture theatres in New Zealand. Although modified on both the exterior and in the interior, the intention of providing an escapist setting that reflected the romance of early cinema history is abundantly evident. The plasterwork, attributed to Dunedin plasterer Robert Waldrop is of particular significance and aptly illustrates the kind of interiors which were typical of early cinemas.
(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places:
The changing landscape of the cinema industry in New Zealand has led to the closure and often demolition of many early cinemas. The former King Edward Picture Theatre is significant as one of the oldest and comparatively rare surviving examples of a large city suburban theatre.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.
Land titles show that the land on which the King Edward Picture Theatre is built was originally granted to William Cargill in 1864, but the crown grant was issued to William Kennedy in 1875 as part of an eight acre section, which was later subdivided. On Kennedy's death in 1888 title passed to his executors, and title to the subdivided sections were issued in 1890. The King Edward Picture Theatre Company Limited acquired title in March 1914 to the four sections on which the Theatre sits.
The King Edward Picture Theatre Company was formed in 1914 with shareholders from among Dunedin's most prominent businessmen. The shareholders were members of the Hudson family, prominent manufacturers , Richard, George, Ambrose, Arthur, Charles, William and Mary Ann Hudson; brewers Charles Speight, and Robert and Charles Greenslade, solicitor Alfred James, gentleman James Brown (the largest shareholder), cordial manufacturer Josiah Lane, and dentist Albert Blakely, holding 11,000 shares.
The first motion pictures were shown in theatres designed for live performance. The first film screening in Dunedin was at the Princess Theatre in High Street in January 1897. Other theatres showed moving pictures at that time: the Kings Theatre in Dowling Street, the Alhambra Theatre and His Majesty's Theatre. Early films were shown on hand-cranked projectors illuminated by limelight, which was shifted from venue to venue by the showmen, including men like Henry Hayward (1865-1945) who was to play a pivotal part in the film industry in New Zealand. Hayward saw films as the 'poor man's theatre', providing an 'antidote to cruel economic and social injustices [bringing] happiness, contentment and forgetfulness.'
In New Zealand, the first purpose built picture theatre, The King's Theatre in Wellington, erected by Hayward enterprises, opened in March 1910. Such was the popularity of the 'flicks' that picture theatres were built throughout the country. According to art historian Peter Entwisle live theatres were characterised by fan shaped auditoria and deep stages behind the proscenium arch. Purpose built cinemas required a different layout. One of the earliest was the Majestic Picturedrome in Tottenham Court Road, London, which opened in 1910. It had a ‘directional' format - a plain rectangular auditorium without boxes or balconies.
Purpose designed cinemas appeared in Dunedin around 1911-1912, opening in the central city. The Arcade Picture Palace opened June 1911, The Queens in May 1912, The Octagon Theatre in December 1912, and The Plaza in December 1913.
It would appear that the plans for the King Edward Picture Theatre were already drawn by the time the King Edward Picture Theatre Company was formed in March 1914. The minutes of the first directors' meeting state that the theatre was to be built from plans ‘previously submitted' to directors.
The King Edward Picture Theatre was located in the working class suburb of South Dunedin. South Dunedin was an area noted for its contribution to industry; in particular the Hillside Railway Workshops located less than a kilometre from the Theatre. The proximity of industry is illustrated by a photograph which shows a coal depot immediately across the road from the Theatre.
The King Edward Picture Theatre was not the first picture theatre in South Dunedin. The Knewstubb history of Dunedin cinemas records the Arcade Picture Palace on the corner Hillside Road and King Edward Street (opened 17 June 1911 and closed within a month), and the Glasgow Theatre (opened July 1911, closed shortly afterwards, opening again in 1912, located in the old South Dunedin Town Hall, since demolished).
The Theatre replaced a house, shop and a shed that were previously on these sections. The King Edward Picture Theatre was built by J.T. Milnes, supervised by Joseph Milnes. No architect was mentioned in the descriptions of the building, and a newspaper search for tender documents back to September 1913 failed to find any tender advertisements, which might have indicated the Theatre's designer. The blueprints held at the Dunedin City Council are unsigned. The financial accounts of the King Edward Picture Theatre Company, however, note ‘plans' and an account for E.W. Walden, and a Mr Jackson being paid for a larger amount for ‘architect's fees.' It seems from these records that Jackson and Walden may have been involved in designing the theatre. Art historian Peter Entwisle believes on stylistic grounds that the theatre was designed by architect Edmund Anscombe, citing the similarity to details in other designs by Anscombe. Without further information it is not possible at this stage to confirm this argument.
Edward Walter Walden (d.1944) was a Dunedin architect, articled with James Hislop, and who was later in sole practise, taking over Hislop's practice on his death in 1904. Walden was the supervising architect for the Carnegie Public Library, and, according to his obituary, for some of the early picture theatres in Dunedin. Walden designed the picture theatre which was built behind the Exchange Court building's façade in 1915, and which was known as Everybody's Theatre. There are no architects or builders in the Dunedin Stone's street directories listed under the name Jackson for 1913 or 1914.
Local businesses were employed during the construction of the theatre: the electrical fittings were supplied by A. & T. Burt; the plumbing by Portman and McBride; the ironwork supporting the roof was fabricated by J. Sparrow and Sons and the fibrous plasterwork was made locally. The fibrous plasterer is not mentioned by name in the newspaper report, but the quality of work is very similar to that produced in Everybody's Theatre (opened 1915, with Walden the architect, and with Robert Wardrop's firm responsible for the fibrous plaster), and it would seem likely that Wardrop was the fibrous plasterer.
Robert Wardrop (1858-1924) was well known for the quality of his plaster work, and in the early days of the company in Dunedin, was working alone in his field. A 1967 article covering the NZ Fibrous Plasterers Manufacturers' Association Annual Conference describes Wardrop as the founder of the industry in New Zealand. Australian building technology and architectural historian Miles Lewis describes Wardrop's background and recognises his early involvement in this trade in Victoria. Wardrop was a wood carver, who moved to New Zealand from Melbourne with his family in 1900. Wardrop set up the Dunedin Fibrous Plaster Company, the first of its kind in the province. Wardrop was active in Otago in the early years of the twentieth century: he did the plaster work for the remodelled Princess Theatre in High Street in 1902, and the Oamaru Opera House and Municipal Chambers in 1907.
Wardrop was also associated with a Mr Schafer in the Carrara Ceiling Company, responsible for some innovations in the manufacturing process. Wardrop may have also been associated with the firm of Wardrop and Scurry which claimed to have been the first to introduce fibrous plaster for decorative purposes to Victoria, Australia.
The King Edward Picture Theatre opened on 7 December 1914. The Theatre provided seating for 862 people. Such was the attraction of the films that the newspaper article describing the opening of the theatre discusses the trailer (‘The Widow of Red Rock') and the lead film (‘The Geisha') in as much detail as the architecture of the building! In common with other picture theatres of the time, the programme was a continuous showing from 1.30pm to 10.00 pm, and it was hoped that the theatre would attract audiences from South Dunedin and surrounding suburbs, with invitations to the opening distributed to these areas. The films were supplied by NZ Picture Supply Ltd. (Henry Hayward and John Fuller's company), 5500 ft. weekly at a cost of £15 a week.
The Otago Daily Times reports that there was no official opening ceremony, and that the large crowd in theatre sat in anticipation as the lights were ‘quietly turned out' and the screening began. After the detailed discussion of the films, the article describes the theatre:
‘The floor measurement of the theatre is 84ft by 57ft, the ceiling is 40ft in height, and the seating is for 862 - 224 upstairs and 638 downstairs. A wide stairway on each side of the buildings leads from the main door to the circle. The white walls and ceilings are elegantly relieved by classic designs in fibrous plaster, and there is a perfect flood of light everywhere - no dingy corners. The ventilation is a specialty in the octagonal dome (24ft in diameter) there is a 5ft ventilator, and there are 24 vents in the ceiling, one at every pendant light, whilst the upper windows are also made to open, and there are inlets in the lower parts of the walls. The vestibule, which is provided with ornamental electric lights, is peculiarly elegant, the fittings of real mahogany contrasting effectively with white pillars and ornamentations and the red corq [sic] linoleum on the floor. Then, as to the seating arrangements, every seat is placed as to let the occupant see between the persons in front of him. Further, every seat in the whole house gives a full view of the entire picture. All the seats, which are most comfortable, are upholstered. The exits are ample, and it seems to be a peculiarly safe theatre.'
Shops were built on either side of the vestibule. The shops had mahogany fronts. On the second storey a billiard room, capable of accommodating four tables was constructed. Photographs from the opening show an ornamental façade, with balustrades along the parapet, and cast iron lace work above and below the veranda. The Otago Daily Times reporter judged the buildings as ‘a distinct addition to the architecture of the south end.'
Financial returns on the theatre were adequate although it is evident that the war affected the returns. The new enthusiasm for film and the burgeoning number of motion picture theatres also limited the takings at King Edward Picture Theatre. A further difficulty was access to films. Chair of Directors Charles Speight explained that ‘the control of films was practically in the hands of the N.Z. Picture Supplies Company & that the Queens Company [leasee of King Edward Picture Theatre] had after lengthy negotiations agreed to lease the three theatres under its control to the Supplies Company, and the King Edward Company was now assured of a regular 8% for rent of the premises.'
Land titles show the leasees of the King Edward Picture Theatre. A 10 year lease was taken out by New Queens Theatre Ltd. in December 1914. The New Queens Theatre Ltd. ran the Queens Theatre in Princes Street, and the shareholders were largely those in common with King Edward Picture Theatre. In addition to the Hudsons and the Greenslades, the shareholders also included theatrical manager Percy Blackman, the King Edward Picture Theatre Company, and the NZ Picture Supplies Ltd. Their stated business was to ‘carry on the business of public entertainers [,] proprietors or managers of Theatres [,] Palaces and Halls Cinematographic and other pictures shows.'
In the early 1920s radio proved another challenge to cinema proprietors. The Knewstubb history records that six cinemas in Dunedin survived the ‘invasion of radio.' Radio affected Hayward's business to the extent that it merged with Fuller Pictures.
By the late 1920s the advances in technology introduced the talkies into New Zealand with the corresponding need to adapt existing cinemas; the first talkie was at the Paramount Theatre in Wellington in March 1929. The 1928 Cinematograph Films Act also required cinemas to be licensed by the Chief Inspector of Explosives to deal with the dangerous nitrate film stock. Premises were required to have a clear means of escape, a fireproof projection room and a separate fire proof store room.
In 1934 the King Edward Picture Theatre was modernised and renamed the Mayfair Theatre. In 1934 there was a seven year lease to the Fuller Hayward Theatre Corporation Ltd. Fullers Theatre Corporation Ltd continued to lease the property into the 1950s.
A total of £1,179 was spent on these alterations. A new Proscenium was built (to a design of the Fuller-Hayward Company, Llewellyn E. Williams), and there were alterations to the stalls, entrance, stairs, newels, escape stairs, stage, and also the covering of walls and stairs with Donnacona Board. Glass panels were inserted in the front door, and a new fanlight was inserted with the name ‘Mayfair' picked out. There was a new ticket box and swing doors. Two hundred and thirty new chairs were installed in the dress circle, with the old chairs moved to the stalls. The theatre was closed for three weeks during the alterations.
The Theatre was a popular venue, with one woman recalling that ‘almost half of South Dunedin' would go to the pictures at the Mayfair on a Saturday night, and some families had permanently booked seats. In the 1940s there were further discussions about alterations, but the war and the associated shortages delayed the work. It appears, however, that the roof was replaced with corrugated asbestos sheeting in mid 1940.
By the early 1960s there was concern about the future of picture theatres. In the context of discussions about renewal of the lease on the theatre Chair of the Board of Directors A.C. Hudson emphasised that ‘it was clear that the Motion Picture Industry was disturbed at the possible serious effects of Television on the future of the industry.' The lessees, Kerridge-Odeon, had told the directors that they were in no position to pay higher rental in the current economic climate. Television had a dramatic effect on New Zealand movie theatres. Television was easier and cheaper, and a status symbol. In the ten year period from 1960 the number of cinemas fell from 545 to 210, and virtually all small towns, and most city suburbs lost their local cinema.
The situation for the King Edward Picture Theatre worsened in May 1965, when rumours of its possible closure were published in a local paper. Lessees Kerridge-Odeon told the Directors that ‘rumours regarding the sale of the building had detrimentally affected the business as also had television' and they wished to withdraw from their lease. The Directors voted against this move and said they had no knowledge of the source of the rumour, and that it had been publicly denied. Kerridge-Odeon did not renew their lease after September 1966. Screenings were reduced to three days only in May 1965.
The Theatre ceased operating as a cinema on 25 September 1966.
By March 1967 there had been several attempts to find a buyer for the theatre, but these had been unsuccessful. The Directors considered that the suburban picture theatres had been more affected by television than had the city theatres, and this accounted for the lack of interest. There was discussion about the theatre being used by the Wool Commission as a store for surplus wool. In July 1967 the theatre failed to find a bidder at public auction, and the Directors entered into negotiations with the Dunedin Opera Company to purchase the building, and the sale went through in October 1967. The Opera Company converted it into a live venue with seating for 413. The Company built a stage, orchestra pit, dressing rooms and working areas.
The Otago Daily Times recorded the alterations to the building to make it suitable for live performance. ‘The downstairs portion has been cleared of seats...This is where the workshops, storerooms, and wardrobe will be.' The public were to be seated in the circle ‘which has been extended and will eventually seat 420 people.' The décor was to be ‘renovated and preserved as much as possible', as there was a ‘good deal of beautiful plaster work, which we shall wash, repaint and light.'
By the 1980s and 1990s many of the early purpose-built picture theatres had been demolished, victim to the competition with television and video, or remodelled as multiplex cinemas. The Victoria Theatre (1912, Category I, Record Number 7712) in Devonport is said to be the oldest surviving purpose built cinema building in New Zealand and the Southern Hemisphere. The Royal Theatre in Raetihi (1915, Record Number 7437, Category II), and the Majestic Theatre in Taihape (1917, Record Number 7433, Category II) are noted as the earliest survivors of the purpose-built picture theatres on the New Zealand Historic Places Trust Register. The Gore District Council's district plan reports indicate that the Princess Theatre (1913), now known as St Mary's Hall, was built as a picture theatre, and converted to a Dance Hall in 1942. The former King Edward Picture Theatre may, therefore, be the third oldest survivor in New Zealand.
In Dunedin The Arcade Picture Palace was demolished in 1974, The Octagon has been demolished and replaced with the Hoyts multiplex, the Plaza in George Street and the Queens (later the Odeon and the Embassy) were also demolished. The King Edward Picture Theatre is the oldest surviving purpose-built picture theatre in Dunedin.
Since its conversion to a live venue in 1967, The Theatre has been used by theatre, school and community groups, including the Gilbert and Sullivan Performance Trust, Dunedin Performing Arts Competition Society, the Dunedin Operatic Society and the Otago Festival of the Arts. By the beginning of the 2000s there were discussions about the future of the building as the costs of heating the theatre were greater than the return on rental. Neighbouring Foodstuffs Ltd, owner of the Pak ‘n Save supermarket to the immediate east of the theatre made an offer to purchase the building, which would have ended its life as a theatre, but this was rejected. The Opera Company recognised that wide community support was necessary to continue the survival of the theatre.
A description of the theatre in 2002 gives an indication of its current use. The elaborate entrance foyer remains, with the original toilets still intact, but unusable, blocked off with a full length mirror. New seating, purchased with the support of a sponsor, has been installed. Under the stage are the plain dressing rooms: six single rooms for the principal characters, and two chorus rooms with rows of mirrors, and a props room. Upstairs is the Green Room, where functions and drinks before shows are held. It was freshly renovated, and had a new kitchen and bar. A meeting room and the theatre costume hire are located in an adjoining building.
In 2005 approaches were made to the Dunedin City Council for funding to allow the Dunedin Opera Company to continue to run the Theatre, which was important to the wider community as a mid-size venue, with suitable performance facilities (in particular the orchestra pit and the fly tower). There was concern about the future cost of upgrading the facilities at the Theatre.
In 2008 discussion continues on the future of the former King Edward Picture Theatre, with an issues and options report in preparation, and the building continues to be used as a live theatre venue.
Architect: E.W. Walden and a Mr Jackson
Builder: J.T. Milnes and Joseph Milnes
Fibrous Plaster: Robert Waldrop, Dunedin Fibrous Plaster Company
The King Edward Picture Theatre (Former) is located in the South Dunedin, a major suburb of Dunedin City. It is located on King Edward Street, one of the main arterial roads and the focus of the community's shopping streets. The Theatre is located less than a block off the main shopping thoroughfare, but represents the northern boundary of the retail area. Immediately to the east is located the huge warehouse-style Pak n Save supermarket, and The Warehouse itself. To the south is a medical centre and mall. Further south and to the west are the small retail premises which have historically characterised the South Dunedin retail centre.
The principle façade of the Theatre faces south west. The Theatre is constructed in neo-classical style typical of the picture theatres designed in the Edwardian period. There is a central entrance, flanked by shops on either side. The shops have recessed entrance ways and glazing with timber joinery. One shop is occupied by a men's hairdresser, the other is vacant. There is a veranda across the front of the Theatre and shops, with a central arched pediment. The first floor façade has paired attached columns, with an arched pediment, and a string course with dentils providing the decoration for the first floor. The first floor windows are aluminium. There are two fire exits from the windows on the first floor. There are chimneys on either side of the principal façade (the fireplaces heated the former billiard's parlour), now no longer used.
The main entrance doors are of aluminium joinery, replacing the previous panel doors. Above the main door is a fanlight with 'Mayfair' picked out in stained glass. The vestibule has a glass swing doors which provide access to the foyer of the theatre. On the right of the vestibule is the modernised tuck shop. The vestibule has a decorative plaster ceiling. A decorative fanlight, in ornate glass work (thought to date from 1914), sits above the entrance doors.
The main foyer has two stairways to the upper floors on either side, providing access to the theatre. There is extensive ornate decorative plasterwork, with a variety of motifs, illuminated by ornamental lighting within the plaster arches. A modern ticket box sits on the main wall opposite the entrance doors. The curved stairways have panelled balustrades, and painted walls. The first stairwell has an ornate plaster ceiling. There is access to the theatre through small modern doors on this landing. The second stairwell has a skylight over, with coloured glass inserts. On the second landing there is access to what is now called the 'Green Room' which acts as a function room for the theatre. The Green Room was previously the billiards parlour.
The second landing also has the main panelled access doors to the auditorium. Between the main doors is the projectionist's room, now used to manage sound and lighting. The projectionist's room is a concrete lined fire cell, probably dating from the upgrade of the theatre in the 1930s.
The main auditorium of the theatre is located at the level of the picture theatre's original dress circle. The floor is raked down to the stage. The walls and ceiling carry on the ornate plaster detailing found in the foyer. A large part of the plaster work dates from the original construction of the theatre. There are remnant surviving panels of Art Deco panelling with fern motifs dating from the 'modernisation' of the theatre in 1934.
The original ornately detailed proscenium arch is located over the stage, and features cherubs and presumably a king's crown as the prominent motifs. This has been moved from its original position at the rear of the theatre. Above the proscenium arch is the ornately plastered octagonal dome in the ceiling, an outstanding feature of the interior.
The stage has an orchestra pit at the front. There are rope flies and typical stage fittings. Access to the fly towers is up ladders at the side of the stage. Above the stage is evidence of the original ceilings. Part of the plaster ceiling above the stage has been removed.
Access to the dressing rooms and service areas below the auditorium is at either side of the stage. Stairs lead to what were the original stall areas of the picture theatre, with its raked floor. The layout of the seats is evident from the fixing marks on the floor. This stalls area has been roughly partitioned into many different dressing room spaces, make up areas and prop storage. The original timber wall panelling is evident in some places, the original ceiling decoration is evident in the props area, and there further examples of the cast iron balustrading.
- Original Construction: 1914 (circa)
- Modification: 1934 (circa)
- Modification: 1934 (circa)
- Modification: 1934 (circa)
- Modification: 1940 (circa)
- Modification: 1967 (circa)
Brick with corrugated iron roof and timber window joinery
- Geoffrey B. Churchman (ed.), Celluloid Dreams: A Century of Cinema in New Zealand, Wellington, 1997
- Dunedin City Council,Rates Books, Caversham Folio 171, Valuation 7091; Plan 1914, No. 2778.
Dunedin City Council Property Files, Property Key 5039585, 100 King Edward Street, Dunedin
- New Zealand Historic Places Trust,Peter Entwisle, 'The Mayfair Theatre, Dunedin: A Case for its Classification by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust' Oct 2006, NZHPT 12008-035
- Victor Glasstone, Victorian and Edwardian Theatres, Thames and Hudson, London, 1975
- Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin,King Edward Picture Theatre Co. Ltd: Records, 1914-1972, 91-062
- Archives New Zealand (Dunedin),New Queens Theatre Ltd 1912-36, DAAB/9053/Acc D93/89e/2082
- Salmond Reed Architects,Salmond Reed Architects, 'the Victoria Theatre, Victoria Road, Devonport, North Shore City: a Conservation Plan.', Salmond Reed, July 2006
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Otago/Southland Area Office.
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