By snapso

Ceiling detail, Civic Theatre

The Civic is the grand old dame of New Zealand’s cinemas and the largest surviving “atmospheric cinema” in Australasia. “Atmospheric” cinemas were popular in the US in the 1920s, but very few were built elsewhere. 

The Civic is a homage to the exotic. The theatre ceiling, complete with a starry night (an exact replica of the Southern sky), and shooting stars, makes it an atmospheric theatre (where the intent is to give the illusion of being outdoors). But there’s more, much more. In the foyer; Buddhas, elephants (lots of them), a Hindu wedding scene, domed ceilings and twisted columns. In the theatre, minarets, a Moorish garden with turrets, and life-sized panthers (with flashing eyes).

The Civic was built when talkies were suddenly the rage, but movies — like this photo — were still black and white. It was completed in December 1929, at the time of the Great Depression, and bankrupted its original owner within 10 months of its opening. 

Renovated in the late 1990s, these days you’ll see live performances at the Civic. Today and this week its the principal venue in Auckland for the NZ International Film Festival.

Tonight we see a Juliette Binoche movie, Both Sides of the Blade. Festival films can be hit or miss; this one’s a miss, unfortunately (group consensus, not just my opinion).

This photo? It’s a detail from the ceiling of the Elephant Bar.

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