The most beautiful theatre I have been to anywhere in the world, The Civic is an absolute gem. Opened as a movie theatre in 1929, it is now home to concerts, dance, comedy, talks. musicals and twice a year the New Zealand International Film festival for three weeks in July / August and a long weekend in April.
On the corner of one of the busiest pedestrian crossing in New Zealand, Queen Street and Wellesley Street, the splendour of The Civic isn’t apparent until you step into the magnificent foyer.
There are a maze of labyrinth like corridors through to bars and toilets.The 2,378 seat auditorium is a wonder, and a brilliant example of the atmospheric cinema style popular in the 1930s. The Civic is one of only a handful of such theatres left in the world, and the only original example in the Southern Hemisphere. The idea was to feel like you were sitting outside, seemingly surrounded by Mediterranean buildings, Islamic style towers, shooting stars, and lions with laser beam eyes.
Back stage are the dressing rooms and impressive staging area. Beneath the auditorium are a host of function rooms, including the majestic Winter Gardens, popular for weddings and home to the annual Auckland Theatre Awards.
The Civic is only open when shows are on. A good opportunity to explore is during the film festival as it is open all day. The best way to see the whole building though, and understand it’s history, is to join one of the free, but very popular, tours run during the Auckland Heritage Festival every October. There is also information on The Civic at MOTAT.
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