11 Moray Place,
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Rialto Cinemas, New Zealand (Official)
Operated by: Rialto Theatres
Previously operated by: Kerridge-Odeon
Architects: Edmond Anscombe
Functions: Movies (First Run)
Previous Names: Empire Theatre, Empire Deluxe Theatre, St. James Theatre
First opened as the 2,000-seat Empire Theatre in 1916. It was taken over by Australian showman Thomas O'Brien in 1928, and re-modeled with a Moorish Atmospheric style, with starred ceiling, minarets, and a Taj Mahal-like proscenium. Re-named Empire DeLuxe Theatre, a Christie 2Manual/10Ranks theatre organ was installed. A new Art Deco style lower lobby was built in the late-1930’s when it was taken over by the Fuller-Hayward chain in 1936.
From 1946, Empire Theatre was operated by the Kerridge-Odeon chain. It underwent renovations in late-1952, and was re-named St. James Theatre. The Christie organ has since been removed and three ranks of pipes are now installed at the Capri Theatre, Adelaide, Australia, while parts of the console are in use at Kelvin Grove College, Brisbane, Australia. Parts of the Art Deco style decoration has been preserved along with the upper Moorish style lobby which has been maintained as a bar. Sadly, much of the Atmospheric style detail was covered over (murals) or removed (plants, urns) in the 1950’s. The ornate plaster proscenium was hidden behind a huge 70mm screen and was damaged in 1969.
The St. James Theatre was closed in 1993 and the Preservation Trust ran the theater as a restaurant and nightclub until 1998. Tripled with some details exposed and preserved in 1998, most of the plasterwork was removed but stored for the future. The St. James Theatre has now reopened as the Rialto Cinemas and is showing movies once again.
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