In the age of streaming, a cinema needs to be cosier than your own couch. There are many boutique cinemas dotted around Aotearoa, and in these four you’ll find plush details that should stifle any associations with stale popcorn and too-cold air. The teams behind these spots also have great taste in films, which is the second-best reason to go to the movies – after the snacks.
The Hollywood, Avondale, Auckland
Built in 1915, this neo-classical institution is for cinema fans with a penchant for 35-millimetre film. Once best known for its 21-year run of playing The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Hollywood is now loved as an intimate music venue, an occasional host of dance party events and a purveyor of cult cinema. Plus, if you’re nostalgic for the glamorous cinema culture of yesteryear, the decorative pink and yellow plasterwork exterior should do it.
For out-of-towners, it may seem out of the way from the city centre’s entertainment hubbub. But with Avondale Station just a six-minute walk, you’re looking at a half-hour-ish train from the city – and it’s close to Burnt Butter Diner, a great lunchtime stop if you’re there during the day. 20 Saint Georges Road, Avondale, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland
Dome Cinema, Gisborne
A fretwork verandah facade isn’t something you’d usually see at your standard cinema. Neither is a 19th-century domed ceiling nor a loaded tapas menu. But the swagger works at this former gentleman’s club, located in a beautiful colonial-style manor house.
Tickets sell out quickly, but if you do nab one to attend one of the arthouse flicks on show, sink into a plush beanbag (the theatre is filled with these instead of traditional folding seats) and order pizza at intermission. With a menu named after classic films, try not to let your movie taste sway your appetite; Chicken Run (chicken, cranberry and brie), Apollo 13 (with blue cheese) and Titanic (salmon) are a few of the options.
Afterwards, you can head to the tapas bar and order from the selection of bitty Spanish treats – think chicken and leek croquettes with lashings of bravas sauce; house-smoked fish; sirloin steak pinchos; and churros to finish. 38 Childers Road, Tairawhiti Gisborne
Light House Cinema, Cuba Street, Petone and Pāuatahanui, Wellington
Wellington folks have plenty of choice when it comes to cinema. But three of the city’s best constitute a small chain called Light House Cinema. They are located across the wider Wellington region – one’s right by the CBD’s Cuba Street, another’s in Lower Hutt’s Petone, about a 15-minute drive from Wellington central, and the third is just under half an hour’s drive away in Porirua’s Pāuatahanui – which ensures you never have to travel far to watch a movie.
Light House outposts screen a range of independent and blockbuster films, finding the sweet spot between alternative and commercial. The squishy chairs, wine and on-site cafes ensure that even if you’re watching a mainstream flick, you’ll enjoy boutique comforts. 29 Wigan Street, CBD. 52 Beach Street, Petone, Lower Hutt. 3 Paekakariki Hill Rd, Pauatahanui, Porirua
Dorothy Browns, Arrowtown
With Arrowtown’s quaint reputation, Dorothy Browns fits the bill. Find it down the lane off Buckingham Street, upstairs from Italian restaurants Aosta and Little Aosta, and Blue Door Bar.
To while away an evening, browse the shelves in the reception area that display a small selection of books for sale, before sitting in the bar and choosing from the varied gin cocktail menu. The view of the surrounding hills is lovely from the bar area, but if it’s dark and cool in the winter months, you’ll be toasty near the fire.
After you’re well-watered, catch one of the arthouse or blockbuster films while you snack on a platter stacked with hot-smoked salmon, pickles, cheese, bread and crackers. There are two cinema spaces – the main room seats around 42, and the den is a cosy 20-seater. Both can be hired for functions. 18 Buckingham Street, Arrowtown