The Civic is heritage atmospheric theatre in downtown Auckland.
Yesterday morning I went on a tour of the The Civic. The tour is scheduled to run for approximately 45 minutes but I was there for almost two and a half hours.
The Civic opened on 20 December 1929. It was a purpose built cinema devised by Thomas O’Brien. It was designed with Indian, Javanese, ancient Persian and Moorish themes. It featured grand staircases, original artwork, exotic figures of animals, including two life-size Abyssinian panther statues. As an atmospheric theatre it had a night sky with twinkling stars.
Construction begun in April 1929 and was completed in 33 weeks. As there were not the health and safety regulations of today it was a dangerous worksite, and at least 8 men have believed to have died during the construction that employed some 2,000 workers.
While it opened to initial interest, audience numbers quickly dropped due to the Depression and O’Brien screening British films rather than the popular Hollywood films, which were screening across the road.
O’Brien departed for Australia in 1932 and a series of mangers were appointed to act on behalf of the original investors.
During the Second World War it was a popular venue for United States soldiers in town.
By the 1980s, The Civic was rundown and was facing demolition. A group called Friends of the Civic formed and fought for its continuation.
A two year project saw many of the theatre’s original features being restored or recreated. The project also included addition of modern elements, such as a stage with seven-storey fly tower, Green Room, dressing rooms, modern sound and lighting.
The Civic reopened in 1999 on its 70th anniversary of its opening night. Today it is a performing arts venue and cinema, hosting events such as large-scale touring musicals and an international film festival.
The twinkling night sky is a recreation of how the sky was on December 20, 1929.
The Civic is located on the corner of Queen Street and Wellesley Street.