State Theatre

The State Theatre built in 1935 was a cinema situated on the corner of Gloucester Street and Colombo Street.

People outside the State theatre
People outside the State theatre. Creator (cre): Ron Cone, Contributor (ctb): Ron Cone. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

In 1934, property development firm, John Bates and Company Limited, purchased the Carey's Building on the north eastern corner of Colombo Street and Gloucester Street. The company initially hired architect, Benjamin John Ager, to prepare a survey of the existing building and designs for alterations. Ager was also under the impression that he would have the right to supervise the construction work. However in May they told him that they had secured a picture company as a tenant and that the company wished to use its own architect.

Demolition of the Carey’s building started in July. The process was briefly held up when a lessee, Mrs G. Stribling, refused to vacate her premises until the end of her lease. The demolition process was still underway in September.  

The architect for the new theatre building was Francis Willis, who was also the architect for the Mayfair which was under construction at the same time. The structural engineer was Allan Johnston. The contractor was Maurice M. Wright.

The new building was designed to accommodate not only a picture theatre but also shops which could be rented out to various businesses. This was a new development in the design of theatre buildings taking place overseas, which allowed for the building owner to ensure that there was more than one source of revenue. By September, the leases for seven of the eight proposed shops had already been let.

Francis Willis designed the building in the Art Deco style. Entering from Gloucester Street, the patron would pass through two sets of double doors and enter into a foyer. The design of the theatre differed from the other single floor theatres operated by Amalgamated in that the auditorium was located on the first floor, rather than the ground floor. From the foyer a staircase led up to a mezzanine floor with a coffee room. On either side of this were staircases which led to the auditorium. The auditorium was raised, with the last sixteen rows stepped. The ceiling was a stepped vault. The interior was wired with Western Electric sound system. The furnishings were sourced from Ballantynes.

The building was leased by Amalgamated Theatres Limited. The theatre opened under the management of J. Shriner on 14 June 1935 with the film Bright Eyes. In June, Ian R. Donald was appointed as manager of the theatre.

On May 23 1938, a fire in the 3ZB radio station in Colombo Street damaged the State Theatre. In July the restoration of the theatre was started by J. L. Pugh. The architects for the reconstruction were Collins and West. It was rebuilt with structural steel and reinforced concrete.

Changes made in the reconstruction included the removal of steps in the auditorium. Fibrolite was used to fireproof the roof. The carpet and furnishings were once again supplied by Ballantynes. The seating was updated to make it comfortable and spacious. The Art Deco style was retained both on the exterior and the interior.

As part of the reopening of the State Theatre, G. M. Brown, the Christchurch representative for Amalgamated Theatres Limited, was appointed as the manager. In 1940, Brown enlisted to serve in the Second World War and he was replaced as manager by Robert W. Stewart. J. D. McBrearty was appointed as manager after Stewart left in 1946.

In 1954, Cinemascope equipment was installed in the theatre, making it the second theatre in Christchurch to have such a feature. 

In 1968, a duty free shop opened in one of the ground floor shops. 

In 1974, International Importing Limited purchased the building. On 30 April 1974, the State Theatre, still leased by Amalgamated Theatres, closed. At the time of its closure, Pat Norman was still the manager after having been in the role for twenty four years. 

Architects, Warren and Mahoney, were responsible for converting the building into a complex consisting of shops and offices. The interior was demolished and reconstructed, while the building was given a new exterior to reflect the Dominion Mutual Securities building on the opposite corner. The new complex opened in December 1977 as International Corner with its key shop being the Christchurch Duty Free Shop. 

The building was demolished after the 2011 earthquakes.