Town Hall Pictures, Geraldine, New Zealand



The story of the ‘TOWN HALL PICTURES’ in Geraldine, and the man who made it all possible.

Entertainment in Geraldine has for the most part centred on the local Town Hall built for and run by the then Geraldine Borough Council. Since its construction in 1924, there have been many changes in the way people are entertained, but there is still something about the nostalgia the old building contains within its wall. Echoes of the past are evident in the etchings of long gone entertainers who scratched their names on the woodwork under the stage. There will be many people who will be able to remember their own times in front of the footlights; times when the people of the district did their own entertaining; times before TV.

When the Town Hall was built, the foundation stone being laid in 1924, it was the most modern building in the town, complete with the latest technical advancement of the day including a  projector installed. Electricity came to Geraldine in 1925, and the Town Hall was wired to use this modern wonder. Prior to 1925, the town had its own gasworks and many of the older public buildings had gaslights. Street lighting was also by gas; the gas being produced from a carbide plant located where the present day Red Cross building is located. The Geraldine Town Hall was opened on the 25th August 1925 with a ceremony involving speeches by dignitaries of the council and the building being declared “Open” by the Mayor’s lady wife, Mrs J. Kennedy. Following the ceremony a movie was shown by Cuth Knight. The movie was ‘North of the Yukon’ which was released in the USA as ‘North of Hudson Bay’. The name change was for the British release of the film. A sound version of North to the Yukon wasn’t made until 1939. Cuth was approached by that council and offered the job of manager/caretaker, part of the job being the setting up of the necessary equipment to establish a movie theatre. The screen at the town hall was built and suspended above the stage by a rope and pulley system. Much of the time, the Town Hall was to be used for stage shows and civic function, so the screen had to be mounted in such a fashion that it could be raised to the roof leaving a clear stage. Moving Pictures in these years were only shown with a single projector. Each reel of film was 1000 feet long and as it only took about 10 minutes to 14 minutes to show, there were many gaps while the machine was rethreaded for the next reel. At this time, there was no sound and movies were accompanied by a pianist or in some cases a small 3 or 4 piece orchestra.

During the construction of the Town Hall a small mistake were made. The length of the steel beam used to support the ‘Circle’. The beam was cut to length at Parr & Co. in Timaru and transported to Geraldine. When hoisted into position it was found that the beam was about 40cm too long. The beam was centralised in the framing and both ends concreted over, the protruding concrete covered ends quite evident on the outside walls. Overall Mr A.M. Fyfe, the builder, did a first class job. Moving pictures had been around for some time, but prior to the 20s was mainly a big city phenomenon, only being available in the country areas when travelling showmen set up a mobile exhibition. Geraldine, along with many more small towns of that time was going to have its own ‘Picture Show’.

A screen was built and suspended above the stage by a rope and pulley system. Much of the time, the Town Hall was to be used for stage shows and civic functions, so the screen had to be mounted in such a fashion that it could be raised to the roof leaving a clear stage. The projector was installed in the projection box, and the time arrived for a test run. There was a problem evident from the outset. The projector was not high enough to project the entire picture over the balcony. The projector had to be raised by about 60 cm. The machine was remounted on a platform with a small set of steps to make it easier for the operator to reach the upper film spool box, which by now was about 2.3 metres above the original floor level. The ports, one for the projector and one for the operator to view the screen, had to be re cut through a 20 cm concrete wall. Eventually everything was sorted and the Town Hall Pictures became a reality. The films in those days were all of nitrate celluloid and were extremely dangerous to handle. Nitrate film is highly flammable and there were many occasions in theatres where the film would catch fire. There were strict regulations about making the projector as fire safe as possible, with closed spool boxes and firetraps to try to stop any film fires. The projection box was also constructed with non-combustible walls; ceiling and metal clad doors and fire shutters.

Cuth picked up some of these skills from his father. In addition to these skills, Cuth was also becoming skilled in the new field of electricity. He had also worked as an assistant projectionist and later, projectionist in Dunedin. He told of the days in Dunedin when the theatres showed weekly serials. As soon as the ‘Serial’ was shown in one theatre, it was his job to take it by bicycle, down the road to the next theatre where he exchanged it for the reel of another serial they had just shown. He would return in time for that reel to be screened at the theatre he worked in. All of these skills were to be the foundation for his future involvement with the Town Hall.


Charles Cuthbert Knight was born 11th Nov. 1901 and educated in Timaru where he attended Marist Bros. School and Timaru Technical College where he gained passes in Engineering and Electrical studies. He trained in general and electrical engineering with Parr and Co. He served his time as a ‘Fitter and Turner’, and qualified as an ‘’A’ Grade Cinema Projectionist’. He had early connections with the picture business. His father ran a limelight show lit by "magic lantern." People used to go around the country giving lantern side lectures and  Cuth's father, [Charles Edward Knight d. in 1945 aged 78] used to provide the equipment and project the shows. The Magic Lanterns were able to show two or three images at once, and a good operator could, by slowly drawing a slide of clouds through one projector, create an effect of moving clouds on a still picture from a second projector. The illusion was created to give motion to an otherwise static picture. Cuth had worked on all phases of Cinema from Silent to Sound and built much of his own equipment. He owned a ‘Circuit’ of Cinemas. Cuth also served 42 and an a half years with the town fire brigade. From 1928 until 1967 he was Chief Fire Officer. He served one term as President of New Zealand Fire Brigades Association. In 1978 Cuth had completed 40 years as a member of the South Canterbury Power Boards Association. Cuth was a foundation member of the St John Ambulance Brigade in Geraldine serving 33 years as Divisional Superintendent. He was a Serving Brother of the Order of St John. For 18 Years he was a member of the Geraldine Licensing Trust. His introduction to Moving Pictures started in 1918 after helping he father at the old Lyceum Theatre in Timaru, he took a job at the Theatre Royal, and the Lyceum as assistant operator. Up to 1925 he was working at the two theatres, completing an engineering course and doing a bit of freelance engineering on the side. In 1925, Cuth turned down a job as projectionist at a large exhibition in Dunedin and came to Geraldine as manager-operator-caretaker of the New Town Hall. He stated that the main reason he came to Geraldine was to do some courting. In 1931 he married Olive Maud Bell, d/o Angus Jamieson BELL and Mrs Sarah Bell nee Hughes. About 1930 with Talkie Movies on the horizon, the Council called for tenders to run the Movies. Cuth’s tender was successful and from there he started his own enterprise. Having a great interest in outdoor activities and fishing in particular was shown with his involvement in the Acclimatisation Society, and the Lake Alexandrina Hut Holders Association. With a lifetime association with the film industry, it is no surprise that he was also a member of the Motion Pictures Exhibitors Association. Cuth also had a 16mm camera and filmed many years of developments, parades, and activities in and around Geraldine. Some of these films have been shown in Geraldine in recent times by his son, Nolan, and always had the Theatre filled to capacity. In 1964 Cuth was awarded the QFSM for service to the Fire Brigade. In 1982 he was also awarded the QSM for service to St John’s Ambulance. He was also a JP. Cuth retired in 1967 and sold his movie business with the coming of television as there was a drop off with patronage. That year he also retired from the ambulance service and fire bridge and spent time working in his workshop. Cuth died on 5 April 1983 at the age of 81 at his residence, 110 Talbot St., Geraldine. The service was held in St. Mary's Church, Geraldine, followed by a private cremation. Olive died in 1984 aged 78. Cuthbert was named after his uncle Cuthbert Bernard Knight who died 27th Aug. 1914 aged 43 and C.B. is buried in the Timaru Cemetery in the same plot as his sister-in-law Lucy E. who died 29 Dec. 1950.

No flowers, please.

Timaru Herald, 27 February 1901, Page 2
KNIGHT — WHITE. On February 14th, at the Sacred Heart Church, Timaru, the Rev. Father Tubman, Charles E. Knight to Lucy E. White: [Lucy b. in 1877 was the d/o of William and Susannah White]

Charles Edward KNIGHT married Lucy Emma White in 1901. Children:
1901 Knight Charles Cuthbert
1906 Knight Francis Beale
1907 Knight Irene Lucy  [m. Harold Victor Firman 1929. Lucy b. 27 Dec. 1907 and died 1984 aged 76, both buried at Geraldine. They lived on Wilson St. ]

The projector was installed in the projection box, and the time arrived for a test run. There was a problem evident from the outset. The projector was not high enough to project the entire picture over the upstairs balcony. The projector had to be raised by about 60 cm. The machine was remounted on a platform with a small set of steps to make it easier for the operator to reach the upper film spool box, which by now was about 2.3 metres above the original floor level. The ports, one for the projector and one for the operator to view the screen, had to be re cut through an 20 cm concrete wall.

The projection box as was in 2003. Dec. 2014 the cinema changed over to digital equipment.
Projectors are a pair of Ernemann IIs (1925) with Ashcraft carbon arc lamphouses, the sound is mono using a old valve amp, the Zeiss- Ikon soundheads have just been converted from the old exciter lamps to the new red lazers.

Eventually everything was sorted and the Town Hall Pictures became a reality. The films in those days were all of nitrate celluloid and were extremely dangerous to handle. Nitrate film is highly flammable and there were many occasions in theatres where the film would catch fire. There were strict regulations about making the projector as fire safe as possible, with closed spool boxes and firetraps to try and stop any film fires. The projection box was also constructed with non-combustible walls, ceiling and metal clad doors. There were metal shutters installed over the ports in the front wall, these shutters being supported by a small length of nitrate film. If there was a fire, this film would burn, releasing the shutters, which could then fall to their closed position. Every safety precaution had been taken.

It wasn’t long before there was a change in the industry. Film companies started supplying the film on 2000-foot spools with a screening time of about 18 minutes each. Movies became longer and started to stretch to more than one spool each. To keep the continuance of the story, the use of two projectors was introduced. Que marks were printed near the end of one roll of film, which told the operator to start the second projector. These marks were timed to coincide with the length of blank leader on the second film. If all went well, the projectors could be changed without the audience knowing.

In Geraldine, the second projector was purchased and again the projection box had to undergo major changes. This time a complete new floor was constructed and two projectors squeezed in to a space originally designed for one. The front wall of the projection box was again modified with more ports for each projector, one for a slide projector and two ports for the operator to view the screen. Keeping up with the industry advances was essential. The Town Hall Pictures were as modern as was possible.

Going to the movies back in the late 1920s’ was a full evening’s entertainment. All the seats down stairs were mounted on lengths of light timber, and after the movies, all the patrons waited outside while staff slid these seats back against the walls. The doors were then reopened and for the modest sum of one shilling (10 cents) entrance could be gained to a dance. The pianist or orchestra would supply the music and the patrons could enjoy another couple of hours of fun.

Inside the Town Hall.

Press, 25 November 1916, Page 2
At the moment great interest is being taken in the election of Carnival Queens for the great occasion at Timaru on New "Year's Day. Miss Doris Barker represents Geraldine comity, and in her cause gymkhanas or fetes have been arranged at Orari, Geraldine,  Woodbury, Arundel, and Pleasant Valley.

Yet again, changes happened in the industry, changes that caused the local Borough Council to eventually change the way they controlled the Town Hall. In 1927 several of the major film production companies started producing films with added sound. The first successful production was a film called ‘The Jazz Singer’ starring Al Jolson. Although there was only about 10 minutes of actual ‘sound’ in the film, the quality and synchronisation made it the hallmark for things to come. The famous words of the opening sound sequence “you aint heard nothing yet” were to set the scene for all future movies. The ‘silent era’ was over.

The Geraldine Borough Council of the day took a very dim view of ‘talking pictures’ and in late 1927, passed a resolution that forbade talking pictures to be shown in the Geraldine Town Hall. They had some idea that ‘this evil thing’ would corrupt the minds of the people. It was a bit similar to the reaction of the purists to the ‘X’ rated movies of today.

New Zealand picked up quite quickly on talking pictures with some shown in Timaru between 1928 and 1930.

Patronage dropped off and as Timaru did have a Cinema with sound equipment, many people went off to Timaru to see and hear for themselves this modern marvel. By this time, the motorcar had developed into a very reliable form of transport, and although the roads were not tar sealed, the drive could be accomplished in well under an hour. With such a small number of people now going to see the last of the ‘silent movies’, a decision had to be made on the future of the Town Hall Pictures. The council decided to close the ‘Picture’ operation, the hall only being used for stage shows and civic events.

Several months passed, and income from the Town Hall was at an all time low. Again the Borough Council had to make a decision about its future. They decided to put the hall up for lease, with the provision that it must be made available for all Civic Functions. Cuth applied for and was granted the lease to again run the Town Hall as a picture theatre – this time with sound. The first sound from film equipment Cuth tried was a home built affair. A small light was arranged to shine through a modified microscope on to a photoelectric cell, which was obtained from a cinema equipment supplier. This contraption, and in those days contraption was the descriptive word for it, was placed in the film path, where it was able to pick up the sound from the film. This was fed through a modified radio receiver to a speaker. It was quite primitive, but it worked. Full credit must be given Cuth for his ability to adapt and improvise at a time when this technology was in its infancy.

As time passed, better equipment was purchased, and with each update, the old equipment was moved to outlying areas where Cuth started to set up a circuit of theatres. By the early years of WW2, Cuth had a theatre at Mayfield, which served the community there, and in particular the workers living in the close by Public Works Camps that were involved in the building of the Rangitata Diversion Race, and the Irrigation Races, which brought water to the plains of Mid Canterbury. Other Theatres was established at Fairlie and Pleasant Point, and then as work got under way in the construction of the Lake Tekapo Power Station in the 1950’s, Cuth set up another Theatre in a hall at Lake Tekapo. In later years he purchased and ran the Temuka Theatre, the Elite Theatre.

The Town Hall was however the base for most of these other operations. Films would arrive from the distributors on wooden ‘despatch’ spool. These were round disks of plywood nailed to a round wooden hub, and as such were not suitable for use on the projectors. The film would have to be wound onto the metal projector spools, and when required to be screened at different locations, needed to be wound onto the spools for each particular type of projector being used. Not all machines used the same type of spools. To save a lot of extra winding, most films were wound off the old Town Hall spools, directly on to the spools for Mayfield or Fairlie.

Sometimes Cuth had to change the duration of the movie show to work in with bus timetables by controlling the speed of the film.

Just getting the films to these locations could at times be quite hazardous. There was one occasion after a serious flood when the Skipton Bridge had been washed out. The flood had subsided, but left a deep stream, which couldn’t be crossed. Cuth arranged to meet someone from Fairlie at the crossing point, and together they managed to get a rope across the stream, where an improvised ‘flying fox’ pulled the film containers across.

"Hail, rain or snow - we show." was the Knight's slogan.

There were many other ‘happenings’ from the early days of movies at Geraldine. One such event in the early 1930’s was when Cuth and some of his friends got together and manufactured several small wire holders, and many large ‘playing cards’. Overnight these were placed in every front lawn in the town. Morning came and everyone in town became aware of a hand of cards standing in their front lawns. This was a unique way of advertising the forthcoming movie ‘The Gambler’ which was to be shown. This event was photographed and entered into a competition run by the film companies. Cuth won a trophy from ‘Universal Pictures’ for this imaginative endeavour.

Another occasion which Cuth spoke of, related to the petrol shortages during WW2. During that war, fuel was rationed, and for many people, there was insufficient for them to do all the travelling their work required. Many people resorted to ‘Gas Producers’. These contraptions were basically a sealed oven in which ‘char,’ a form of charcoal was baked until it gave of a gas. The gas was collected in a small tent like bag, usually attached to the roof of the car. The ovens were heated by a small fire in a box, all mounted on the back bumper or carrier of the car. The setbacks were the amount of time it took to get up enough heat for the gas to start being produced.

Cuth had one of these producers mounted on the back of a Chevrolet car. He found that after a film screening at Mayfield, (34 kms North West of Geraldine) it seemed to take a long time to ‘get up gas’ again for the return journey, and in midwinter this waiting around was an unnecessary cold experience. Cuth, being a versatile engineering chap, decided that just maybe an assisted draft for the firebox would reduce this waiting time. He built a small modification to his gas producer, whereby he could hook up the vacuum cleaner and suck air through the firebox to help it burn quicker. From a cold start in Geraldine, the system worked reasonably well. He went to Mayfield, and after the show, connected up the vacuum cleaner and told his wife to turn on the power. The cleaner burst into life, then took off and exploded. At Mayfield, there was some residue gas still in the system, and when the vacuum cleaner drew this into the sparking brushes in the electric motor, everything ignited.

 Breaks in the film, or skips on the disk lead to sequencing problems, often with humorous results. Often the audience would assist when technical difficulties held up the show.

During much of the time, as well as working with ‘Pictures’, Cuth was involved with many other organizations. When asked about these he spoke of some of them. He was for many years Superintendent of the Geraldine Volunteer Fire Brigade, and at the same time, Superintendent of the Geraldine St Johns Ambulance Brigade. His interest in electricity found him a member of the South Canterbury Electric Power Board. Having a great interest in outdoor activities and fishing in particular was shown with his involvement in the Acclimatisation Society, and the Lake Alexandrina Hut Holders Association. With a lifetime association with the film industry, it is no surprise that he was also a member of the Motion Pictures Exhibitors Association, and of the Cinematograph Projectionists Licensing Board of that time. Charles Cuthbert Knight was a truly remarkable man.

He was known to one and all as Cuth. 

‘Geraldine Guardian’ advertising the opening of August 1925 an unfortunately the other clippings do not have dates.

The Geraldine Cinema in September 2008

The Geraldine Cinema showdd 35mm film as well as DVD movies. Mamma Mia, did well with weekend screenings as well as Tuesday and Wednesday.

At school holiday time, the Geraldine Town Hall theatre is open every day, providing there is suitable films available. The theatre is often used to show movies to school students and only a couple of weeks back, 'The Chronicles of Narnia--Prince Casper' was screened during school hours when about 60 students were present. They then had to do a film review as part of the English studies. Barry McLauchlan, now retired, use to have private showings for birthday parties, car clubs and other interest groups. The theatre was always available to be hired for fund raising events. Barry is a collector of programmes.

A normal weeks showing would be for a 2, 5, and 7.30 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, depending on how a particular film is going. If there is not a lot of interest in any particular movie, this can be cut back, but that doesn't happed very often. Frequently there are Friday night screenings for the teeny boppers. DVD screenings are popular in the summer when the theatre is cool inside. DVD movies are more of the arty types of movies. Some movie distributors have only DVD, and 35mm prints are not always available. It's not like the old days when Cuth had the Geraldine theatre as a base. Back then a movie would screen at Geraldine and then go to Fairlie for a Mondays night, followed by Wednesday at Mayfield. I don't know what nights were for Pleasant Point, as the equipment was removed from their Town Hall in about the mid-1950s. Temuka was like Geraldine with weekends and one, sometimes two midweek movies--this was also operated by Cuth in later years. 

End of an Era - 2014 went digital

In August 1970, the ‘Town Hall Pictures’ was re-opened as the ‘Geraldine Cinema’. Barry McLauchlan whose father managed the State Theatre in Timaru, took up the lease on the building and replaced the projection equipment and seats. Barry and his wife Anthea ran the theatre for the following 40 years and then sold the business to Deirdre and Calvin McKechnie. Deirdre and Calvin also used the theatre for live music concerts with local and visiting artists. The end of an era occurred when 35mm Film stopped being made. All movies were then made in digital format. It was on the 11th April 2014 that the last movie on 35mm film was shown. In November 2014 the business was sold to Patrick Walsh who removed all of the old equipment and fitted a brand new ‘state of the art’ digital projector and sound system.  2014 Nov. going digital. In 2016 the Geraldine Vintage Car and Machinery Museum will have a display on a display of old projectors etc.

Town Hall, Geraldine -same shot another photo
Showing a movie poster for 'North of the Yukon'  (March 1939 release in the USA) by front door, and bicycle leaning against wall.

27 July 2006 Timaru Herald
Why does the local Geraldine Cinema have two chimneys on its roofline?
The Geraldine cinema was originally built as a town hall, for civic functions and stage shows. There was also a lending library and a reading room. Local resident and theatre history expert Garry Toomey said there are two boarded-up fireplaces, one in the sweet stall and the other in the old ticket box. They both ran into the same chimney on the south side of the building. The other chimney was for a fireplace in the lending library on the right side of the building, and is now boarded up and invisible in the men's toilets.

Photos, articles and information above courtesy of Garry Toomey, Geraldine, N.Z. Posted Sept. 24 2008. Updated De.c 10 2015.


Fairlie's DeLuxe Theatre

“Fairlie 1866-2000” Pg 26. 1930s and later.
The Aorangi Hall served as a picture theatre. The Hill brothers ran the pictures and had a sweet shop at the entrance. Bourne’s stables backed on to the hall. There was an upstairs section and the projectionist could be watched changing the films between features. There were occasional breakdowns and the hall lights were turned on. Serial and cowboy films were very popular. Deanna Durbin, Judy Garland, Errol Flynn and Lassie were real favourites.

John S. first movie film was in the Aorangi Hall sitting on benches with no backs and watching one reel at a time and sitting in the dark while the operator changed the reel on the single projector. That continued until the Deluxe Theatre, up School Rd, was built perhaps about 1934.

Pg 52. Picture theatre.
The original hall in Fairlie, Potters Hall (c. 1922) on School Road on the right (which had a sprung floor for dancing), was where flickery movies were first projected in Fairlie by Hills and then Potter and Ganderton, garage operators. Hazel Boulter used to play the piano for the silent movies. It was altered and reincarnated as the DeLuxe Theatre, where Cuth who travelled from Geraldine, regularly ran picture shows. With the advent of television however, interest in “going to the movies” waned and in 1968 the DeLuxe Theatre closed down. Old timers in the area remember ushers Len Smith, Eddie Wall and Mary McDonald, and Mrs “Power Board” Mac (Mavis McDonald) manning the ticket booth. Julia Wall who lived in a cottage next door, was the caretaker. You could go to the pictures on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday nights. The building was used for a church group for a few years before being demolished in 1986.

I remember the first movie I ever saw, a special viewing, a fund raiser, held by a church group, the New Life Church, which had taken over the old Fairlie cinema up School Road, on the right. It was the "The Iron Maiden" a comedy movie about a traction engine in England and I watched it with my parents and siblings in the crowded hall on a cold night. Dad was always interested in traction engines and would take us to the traction engine rallies so he wanted to see the movie.  OW. The 1962 film is about the troubles of getting the fowler engine to the Woburn Abbey steam show, great shots of the maiden in action, a must for any steam enthusiast. 88 mins long.


The Temuka Town Hall, 109 King Street, Temuka was built in the 1890s by Daniel McInnes (1866-1932), a member of the Temuka Borough Council for 24 years and Mayor between 1907 and 1912. In July 1922 the hall became the Dominion Theatre. Closed as the Elite Theatre on January 31, 1970 and was operated by South Canterbury Picture Co. Ltd. as a single screen cinema with a seating capacity of 553. From 1970 it had been a second hand furniture shop until it was demolished in early 2010. Ceiling in 2008.


Timaru Herald, 10 January 1910, Page 5
A reminder is given that the Lyceum pictures will be shown for the first time in Timaru at the Sophia Street Hall this evening. The management have secured a splendid selection, and they will be transferred to the screen with a powerful and first class apparatus. The prices of admission are within -the reach of all.

[1911-1928] Lyceum Theatre - demolished
[1912- ] Royal Theatre - live shows
[1915-1931] The Grand opened 8th December 1915, then re-named Regent Theatre, the  Regent opened 26th June 1931 and closed 16th September 1967, in the O'Meeghan's Building beside Souters Shoe Store on Stafford St. One screen. History. Originally the Choral Hall.
[1922-?] Washdyke Public Hall - demolished

Regent Theatre - last film was "Doctor Blood's Coffin".

[1929-1997] Majestic Theatre - closed. Located opposite the Theatre Royal on Stafford St. North, still vacant in 2015. Seating capacity 1,101. The seats at the Majestic Theatre were sold for $10 each, with a maximum of 12 on Saturday 5th May 2012. People came armed with screwdrivers, spanners and hammers and even the odd crow bar to remove the seats, which in the end proved pretty simple. Some were planning to put them in their home theatre rooms or out on decks or verandas. Some came just came just to have one last look at the Majestic. "It's a bit sad to see them all go as I remember when it was full every Saturday night." An ice-cream boy for three years in the 1970s said "I remember the half-round blue trays filled with lollies from the Nibble Nook and standing at the door as people went in. At halftime it was a big white tray with plain ice creams on the left and chocolate on the right. It was a struggle to get them upstairs without losing one as they were heavy. The theatre was then owned by Albert Swaney and his wife, and their sons worked there. "  After 1997 became Video Ezy.

Haywards Lyceum Picture Theatre opened in 1911. In 1929 it was replaced by the Majestic Theatre on the same site. Built for Fuller Haywards for $18,000 by an Auckland contractor, 300,000 bricks were used and a number of local sub-contractors were used. 1930 saw the introduction of the first talking pictures, "the talkies", in Timaru with a Western Electricr4 System, installed over two days. About 1940 the Kerridge Odeon group assumed control of the theatre.


[1935-1984] State Theatre - closed. Seating capacity 785. Lyall McLauchlan managed it for 30 years until 1976/77ish. The days when the motion picture was at its peak, crowd-wise, the the State could boast weekend attendances of 700 people a session and have two or three sessions a day and people had to book tickets four or five days ahead at Charles Begg and Co. The State would be fully booked for the 8pm session. People would queue down Stafford St. The biggest week in theatre history was The Sound of Music. What is the last movie you saw in the theatre? I did see Gone with the Wind there and Snow White and the Seven Drawfs. At intermission got an ice cream. I did not see Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979).  photos The building is still there. Name taken down in 1991. The State Theatre was where the BNZ is in 2015, on the right hand side of the street if heading north. BNZ Bank moved from the corner of George and Stafford St. to the old State Theatre, more near the intersection of Church and Stafford streets in July 2011. Glory days.

State, 1963. Had a balcony. Got ice cream during the intermission. Kids would throw jaffas, round orange lollies, from the balcony, down..

Sounds Historical. 2 Aug. 2015. A piano for all seasons.
Margaret Fahey talks about her life as a cinema and theatre pianist in Timaru in the 1930s. An extract from a 1976 Spectrum programme. Part 1 15'58". Mrs Margaret Fahey, age 80. A cinema and theatre pianist. At the Theatre Royal. She first played in the silent cinema. We never sat in silent, there was the mood music, and there was the effects man, Mr Moore, who would produce the sound of a door, horse hoofs beats etc. Every one got dressed up for the silent films. Door slamming, play a cord. Mr Wood, was a double base play, Mr Burke a clarinet, there was a Mr Ellis - violinist. Sometimes got very simple scores. William Tell for storms. Preferred to play things from the classics - Beethoven.

There was a time when all four Timaru theatres would be well attended. In those seemingly carefree days of our youth the major amusements were the picture theatres and the dance halls.

Timaru Herald 4 June 1983

January 1984

[1997- 2000 ] Hoyts operated Movieland 3-plex owned by independent operator. In 2011 Movie Max 5 changed name to Movie Max Digital, corner of Cannon  & Sophia St. - open
Timaru Herald 18/12/2010
Images will be leaping off the screen from 18 Dec 2010 as Timaru's Movie Max 5 embraces 3-D – just in time for the summer holidays.
Movie Max 5's rollout of two 3-D theatres is the first step in a major overhaul of the complex. Owner Brent Birchfield said the movie theatre was making a leap into new technology. By the end of March it would be entirely digital, meaning it would no longer require the traditional 35mm film reel movies used for nearly 100 years. Rather than arriving on reels, movies will arrive on a memory stick. Eventually they would be downloaded from satellite. Nov. 2014 new seating

Nov. 2011. Sefton St., Timaru. We saw the Immortals, only five in the movie theatre.
Nov. 2011.

Arthur Christmas 2D 3D 	Midnight in Paris 		Anonymous
Immortals 3D 		Smurfs 3D 			Contagion
			Twilight Breaking Dawn 		The Thing

Otematata Cinema pre 1964. The building was moved to Twizel.


Arcadia Theatre - High St. Waimate destroyed by fire on 29 June 1955. Quinn's Arcade was built  originally housed around 12 shops, and was one of the first arcades built in New Zealand. Internally, each side originally had eight shops, with a main concourse linking Grigson and High Streets. In 1920 the building was converted into it became a picture theatre - the Arcadia - with billiards rooms and a tobacconist shop. Seating some 725 people and opened 20 March 1920. The 296,970 bricks used in its construction came from William Quinn's Brickworks at his Makikihi farm and delivered to Waimate by traction engine. Matching facades at the north and south ends are designed around large central arches. Each end once had an ornate veranda, with half-moon glass panels. It had a mezzanine dress circle balcony and upper foyer. There is intricate plasterwork on the walls.   photo Quinn's Arcade Over the years the building has been used for storage and flats in the southern upstairs wing. Purchased 2007 by Pro-Ject Waimate.  photo photo William Quinn b. 1828 in N. Ireland, died July 1, 1914, at Makikihi. The billiard rooms remained and it was here that Tommy Yesberg learned his sport and won the National titles in 1960, 1964 and 1975. He represented New Zealand in the World Championships held in Auckland in 1975.
Olympia Theatre - demolished
Regent Theatre - 495 seats opened in 1956 to replace the old Arcadia Theatre, which was burned down. 2009 February $130,000 upgrade competed with new floor, new carpet and vinyl throughout, new seating giving more leg room, widened the stage, upgraded the fire alarm system and created wheelchair access to toilets. photos In 1982 Kerridge Odeon sold the Regent Theatre to the trust for $90,000. The community raised $36,000, and local authorities underwrote the balance because the trust couldn't secure a mortgage, with the theatre being signed over to the council. In 1986 significant improvements were financed by the Trust with the assistance of the $36,000 provided by the community. A Memorandum of Lease was drawn up in 1987 which formalised the terms of any future winding-up of the trust and recorded the purchase of the theatre. Funding of $65,000 was approved by the council for works upgrade in 2008. The property has a capital value of $330,000 in 2012.

Cuth believed cinema would survive the introduction of television, including colour television.

Snippets from the Timaru Herald and other newspapers

Waimate Daily Advertiser, 31 March 1900, Page 2
There was a full house Theatre Royal, Timaru, last evening on the return Montgomery's Kinenmtograpy Concert Company, the seating accommodation in all parts of building being taken up. The programme presented was a good one, and was thoroughly appreciated. The first part was taken up by some very fine pictures life-boat work on the in England, and Mr Hall, explained the views, added considerably to the effect by his vivid narration. Mr Montgomery did a very good rendering of "A Bit of Red," and received an encore. Mr Harry Hall made himself popular, his songs and eccentricities. His recitation, "Mary had a little Lamb," was a piece of mimicry.

North Otago Times, 27 June 1900, Page 3 (Timaru Herald)
There was a crowded house at the Theatre Royal on Thursday evening, many being turned away, the attraction being Mr Thornton Stewart's Kinematograph. Those which particularly took the fancy of the audience were pictures of the Black Watch (42 Highlanders) maneuvering, forming up, and firing volleys, the Queenslanders and the new Zealanders crossing the Togela, the armoured train disaster at Mateling, nurses on the battlefield attending to the wounded after the battle of the Modder. A good variety of music was afforded by selections on the glassophone, fairy bells and cow bells. Mr Norris, the veteran skitter, kept the house roaring with laughter with his practical exposition of the song "Olympia." The entertainment concluded with a few additional moving pictures.

Mataura Ensign, 25 May 1911, Page 4 Wit
A reporter of the 'Timaru Post' had cause for annoyance at a picture show the other night and gently rebukes his tormentor as follows:—"A good deal of annoyance was caused by a youth not only getting his large head in the light but twiddling his fingers deliberately in the rays of the light, and varying this stupid play by waving a box of chocolates also in the rays. The screen showed the head as a blurred circle devoid of brains, apparently—the fingers crooked, and the chocolate box empty, the contents evidently having been abstracted by the girls who were alongside the funny youth. Now and then heads met across the screen, and a piece of millinery like an inverted bucket met and absorbed what looked like a mop of hair."

Evening Post, 14 July 1911, Page 3
Timaru, 13th July. The manager of Fuller's Pictures Was convicted and ordered to pay costs and solicitor's fee for overcrowding the theatre on the King's Birthday. The magistrate remarked that in licensing such buildings the number allowed each section should be stated, not a single total, or the circle might be dangerously overcrowded within the limit of the license.

Grey River Argus, 13 October 1915, Page 3
Censorship of Pictures. Timaru, October 11.— The Timaru Borough Council to-night resolved to support the Catholic Federation in requesting the Government to establish a censorship on moving pictures.

15 January 1997
Hoyts Multiplex Cinema opens on Friday morning and manager, Rick Hoggard, said there had been "a lot of hype" about the new venture. Bugs Bunny's Space Jam would be the first movie shown at the complex. Mr Hoggard said a gala opening featuring the New Zealand premier of One Fine Day, was scheduled for Monday. The evening's proceeds would go to the drug and alcohol education programme, DARE. The multiplex's arrival was welcomed yesterday by Geraldine Cinema owner, Barry McLauchlan. "It will give a vital stimulation to the South Canterbury film industry, which has been sadly lacking since the State Cinema closed down." He said its arrival would guarantee earlier showings of new releases in Geraldine - but his theatre would also continue to show less mainstream movies. "Geraldine is the last independent cinema left for a town of its size (around 2000 people) and it would be a sad day to see it closed if support waned."

18 March 1997 The Majestic Cinema has closed its doors.
Cinema lessee Gavin List confirmed yesterday that he was no longer operating the theatre. The principal shareholder of the company that owns the building, Ray Bennett, said last night that he was about to consider options for the cinema. Mr List had told him last Thursday that he would be relinquishing the tenancy. "The three other businesses operating out of the theatre building will be continuing as normal," Mr Bennett said. The building, which was built in 1929, is included in the Timaru district plan list as having potential to be a heritage building. "The facade of the building will be retained, no matter what option is chosen for the building's use," he said.

29 December 2003
When the possibility of a multiplex cinema was raised there was an uproar - surprisingly, many people didn't want it. They saw a multiplex as a threat to the existing cinema. The Geraldine Cinema has sofas to relax on and during intermission people can have a drink and chat. It is also the town hall and theatre.

April 2006
Barry McLauchlan, Manager of the iconic Geraldine Cinema for the last 37 years. Fundraising groups have made frequent use of the facilities and thanks to the Barry McLauchlan's hospitality, about 600 people attending the local Anzac service on Tuesday were able to take shelter from the weather in the cinema. The Geraldine Cinema is unique and it's good to support it. "It is only the loyalty of the district and the desire to have a cinema out there that keeps our cinema alive," he said. The Geraldine Cinema has sofas to relax on and during intermission people can have a drink and chat. It is also the town hall and theatre.

November 2007
The Geraldine Cinema is showing a selection of Disney cartoons and there are spot prizes for those best dressed as their favourite cartoon character. The premier of the Phar Lap movie at the Geraldine cinema a number of years ago.
9 November 2005 1.15pm - At Geraldine Cinema, Help I'm a Fish, come dressed up as an underwater world character and be in to win spot prizes.

Timaru Herald  4 August 2010 Credits roll on Geraldine's cinema careers
Barry and Anthea McLauchlan have been running the cinema since reopening it in August 1970. Mr McLauchlan said when he took over; the cinema was "just a shell". He had a new red carpet put in and got seating from a Christchurch theatre. Over the years, the 500 seats were removed and replaced with couches, setting it apart from modern cinemas. "And most importantly, speaking to the audience and talking about the film ... Geraldine's Deirdre and Calvin McKechnie, who Mr McLauchlan said were his "best customers", have taken over. Cinemas would always have a place in the community, he said.

Timaru Herald 16 August 2010. Out of the pictures
Barry's love of the theatre began at an early age. His father Lyall managed Timaru's State Theatre (now Central Mall) for 30 years. After 40 years Barry McLauchlan is out of pictures. Late in the 1960s the theatre was an empty shell, no seats, no projector, not screen." The McLauchlan family and a team of helpers toiled to get the cinema back in action. Seats came from a cinema in Christchurch, a screen, carpet from Amalgamated Theatres – that beautiful red carpet from a closed theatre in Wellington. The cinema was owned by the Geraldine Borough Council, so Barry McLauchlan made arrangements to lease it. The Geraldine Cinema reopened August 20, 1970. In 1980, the cinema hosted the New Zealand premiere of the movie Phar Lap. The cinema moved into the realms of big action, general, and art house movies. The World's Fastest Indian was the most popular. Competition was from a multiplex in Timaru, the accessibility of DVDs and big-screen TVs but people would come to Geraldine for a evening out, movie and dinner. The cinema remains open – handed on to local couple.

The arrival of the automobile and cinema with sound c.1926-27 caused a revolution in the theatrical world and a decline of professional touring companies visiting Timaru and the surrounding districts. Patrons were no longer limited to walking distances and would drive into town and increasingly shopped for their entertainment.


carbide: a compound of carbon with a more electropositive element
cinema: chiefly British. A hall or theatre where moving pictures are screened. A motion-picture theatre. Origin -1899.
dress circle: a tier of seats in a theatre or other auditorium, usually the first gallery above the ground floor.
footlights: a row of screened lights along the front of a stage
limelight: a spotlight
lyceum: a lecture hall, meeting place
magic lantern: an early form of projector using slides.
movies: mov(ing picture) + -ie, origin 1905-10.
nitrate film: film stock using a base of cellulose nitrate: extremely flammable and tending to erode at a relatively early age. origin (1920-1925)
picture show: older term for a motion-picture theatre.
talkie: an early film with a soundtrack 1910-15, talk + (mov)ie

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project 

Page last undated 30 Oct. 2017

Temuka Leader 21 February 1925 Page 2
The main street of Geraldine is at present receiving a coat of tar and sand. The now Town Hall at Geraldine is beginning to assume its ordained proportions. The walls are up to the proper height, and a start will shortly be made to put the roof on.