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February 22, 2010 | by  | in Film |
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A Culinary Guide to Wellington Cinemas


Do not be misled, oh humble first year—this is not a judging of Wellington’s cinemas by the edible wares which they peddle. It would be ridiculous to take such a stance on any cinema I attended, given the myriad of things that make a cinema what it is. Regardless, what I gift to you is a judgment of the best in cinema experiences that Wellington has to offer, scaled as if they were McDonalds burgers. Why? Because we all know what McDonalds burgers are, and if you don’t, you are lying.

Reading Cinemas Courtney Central—Cheeseburger

The core contents of Reading Cinemas, like the McDonalds Cheeseburger, are vaguely dissatisfying and rather tasteless. However, when it comes to mainstream film, no cinema in Central Wellington has a selection like Reading Cinemas, and if that’s what you’re in to, go right ahead and indulge in the cheap, personality-free aura of the thing. With the creation of the Anjelika Film Lounge, there seems to be an inkling of variety in the films they offer too, though that may be presumptuous when they call films like The Informant! ‘art-house’. There’s also the Gold Lounge, which is obscenely expensive for what is essentially slightly higher seats and unlimited popcorn and Pepsi. At the end of the day, Reading Cinemas is not the standard ingredients, but what you add to them. Only then can your Cheeseburger become a Double Cheeseburger, or a Chicken McCheese, or a Bacon BBQ Cheeseburger.

The Embassy—Big Mac

Drawing cinephiles as though they were moths to a fluorescent lightbulb, The Embassy is the assumed gold standard in Wellington cinemas. Tickets usually sit at around $13-14 ($10 on Tuesdays), and it exudes a certain air of importance that you can’t help but heed. It’s big, it’s shiny, it is immaculately appointed—and yet, beneath all the gloss, all the shiny toilets and stands selling foreign films, it’s just like your ordinary cinema. Sure, it may pay host to a great many excellent Film Festivals, but outisde of those large, corporate-sponsored events, it screens strictly mainstream fare. Like a Big Mac, The Embassy is a flashier, more tasteful version of the normal routine; a safe choice, but one you look good choosing.

Penthouse Cinema—Grand Angus

No cinema in Brooklyn is going to see my repeated patronage simply because it’s in Brooklyn. It’s incredibly out of the way, but fewer cinemas in New Zealand strike as good a balance between typical Hollywood fare and more interesting cinema from all over the world. It’s also a great place to watch films, and has a café-restaurant that is generally well-regarded, so if you’re feeling adventurous (in that you will actually have to mount an expedition to get there), then take in the Penthouse Cinema. I doubt you’ll regret it.

Paramount Cinema—Not a McDonalds Burger

My favourite cinema in Wellington, and thus the one that earns the honour of being considered outside the realm of McDonalds cuisine. On first glance, it may not appear optimal—there’s a lot of bare brick wall, the food is expensive and of a fairly limited selection, there’s no popcorn, some of the seats (particularly in the main cinema) are kind of rickety, and it’s next to Boogie Wonderland—but the Paramount has one thing that real estate agents usually use to describe shitholes, and that’s ‘character’. It definitely skews towards the art-house and the obscure (though it’s not rare to see it screening mainstream films the programme managers take a shine to), but it’s hard not to feel like you’re in a place that worships cinema. The Paramount may have no carpeted walls or art deco architecture or winning cafés on its premises, but it has a reverence for the medium pulsing through its veins that few cinemas can match. It’s a lovely cinema that is always a joy to revisit, and if you get a good seat (which is often, given how empty screenings can sometimes be), it’s magnificent.

The New Zealand Film Archive—Kiwiburger

It’s an obvious choice of representation, but that’s because it’s true. I’ve never seen anyone order a Kiwiburger, yet it always seems to come back again and again due to ‘high demand’, and the Film Archive is like that. I’ll be damned if people actually go to their screenings, but they keep holding them, so they must be. It should be noted, however, that the cinema’s probably not the best for people who are claustrophobic (the interior is essentially a giant brick tomb with a couple of obligatory fire exits). If you’re looking for films that are hard to find in New Zealand, though, keep an eye on their screenings—they usually screen interesting and obscure films, and you could do worse with your eight dollars.

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  1. Readings gold lounge used to be all you can eat popcorn and soft drink. But no more. You now get one free soft drink and one small popcorn free (somtimes two if you are sneeky)

    now you just pay for access to the bar and cooked meals and nicer seats. I recomend the seats for long showings but otherwise it really isn’t all that it was.


  2. Adam G says:

    Thanks, Alexander. I haven’t been to the Gold Lounge since the start of 2008 because it is so damned expensive, so it’s nice to know that Readings are incapable of letting a decent thing stay decent.

  3. Abby says:

    I must say I really do like Readings Courtney, 9/10 the service is great (can;t expect it to be right all the time), the seats are comfy and the quality of the film (I mean the phisical quality) is always good….plus they are the only ones in Wellington Equiped with 3D.

    You can;t blame them for getting rid of the Free popcorn and Drinks in Gold lounge…..It was actually the Australian heads who made them do it and they did try to stop it happening (were even sneaky and kept it a month longer than they were ment to)

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