The Wellingtonista

Random stuff about Wellington since 2005

Deluxe is deluxe

by Dan on December 9, 2011 in Film, Food & Drink

Patrons at the Deluxe barOne of the most exciting and stimulating things about living in Wellington is the fact the our cinemas are continually reinvesting in their facilities and always trying to top each other in quality of fit out and customer experience. What have we done to deserve this!?

This year the burghers of Miramar got the Ming opulence of the Roxy (and by that I mean Ming the Merciless not Ming Dynasty), Readings have started a long process of upgrading their facility with the introduction of the Titan XC brand toWellington and next year the Lighthouse comes to town with a boutique three screen offering on Wigan Street (opposite Havana Bar).

Just in time for Christmas the Embassy has opened two more screens on the ground floor in the shells that were constructed during the 2003 “Return of the King” refurb. They’ve called them Deluxe (confusingly considering their ground floor coffee bar neighbours are also Deluxe) and they have exceeded all expectations with the quality of vision and execution.

When Event Cinemas took over the lease on the building I must admit I was jaded by the big chains and the general sense of not knowing what to do with the place but as Jane Hastings, General manager of Event’s NZ and Australian operations, said in her welcome speech last night, “the Embassy has a way of getting under your skin.” So instead of simply fitting out a couple of digital screens and reaping the synergies and efficiencies they’ve raised the standard in quite significant ways.

The new Deluxe Bar at the EmbassyWhile the new cinemas fill the old orchestra pit – the vacant space under the main screen – the old Fringe offices and cinema storage has been converted into the Deluxe Bar and it is a thing of beauty and wonder. Embassy Manager “D” did a fantastic job of keeping his excitement in check when I talked to him about it on Sunday, betraying no hints of what was in store once the curtain was opened.

I have included a couple of murky cellphone pictures to give you an idea of how lovely the space is. Suffice to say it is now my new favorite Wellington bar. I haven’t gasped walking into a bar since going downstairs to the stark Kubrickian fantasy of the Jet bar basement but going through the tunnel to the Deluxe forced a sharp intake of breath.

I’ll let others describe it properly (maybe the Fly could take a shot at it?) and I’ll limit myself to discussing the two new screens: 70 comfortable seats each with the latest digital projection onto decent-sized screens. There was nothing playing in the main auditorium last night so we couldn’t judge the sound insulation but the audio generated by the cinemas themselves was perfectly acceptable.

The only technical problem was the choice not to install proper masking for ‘scope ratio films. last night’s Tintin was a 2.35:1 ratio film with black bars between the image and masking at top and bottom. When I mentioned it to Ms Hastings she implied that she hadn’t been told about the decision and that something would be done. Let’s hope so.

That was the only blip in an otherwise successful night. Going to the movies is getting better and better. Now, what are we going to do about the poor old Paramount…

Dan Slevin

A refugee from Thatcher's Britain, 27 years ago Dan Slevin produced and hosted the Radio Active guide to cultural Wellington, Asleep At The Wheel. Since then he has bounced around various creative endeavours including co-owning and managing the Paramount between 2002 and 2005. For six years he was the Capital Times film reviewer and is now the Managing Editor of ONFILM Magazine and onfilm.co.nz. In his spare time he is also the Wellington Manager for the Rialto Channel 48HOURS furious filmaking competition and proprietor of his own strategic communications consultancy. His collected film reviews can be browsed free of charge at Funerals & Snakes.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly December 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Makes me want to hold crazy movie events in Wellington with all this development going on – very exciting.

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DeepRed December 10, 2011 at 12:53 am

Seemingly out of nowhere, too. It’s not quite retro, and it’s not quite present-day either – it has a kind of jet-set airport-lounge mystique, and all the better for it.

Do agree on the need for the Paramount to shape up – the seats at the back in particular are showing their age.

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tim December 10, 2011 at 5:27 pm

The worst part about the Paramount is the sound – the speakers & the acoustics are simply dreadful. I refuse to go back, sorry….

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lindsay December 14, 2011 at 8:10 am

The worst part of the Paramount is the fact that so many lights are out of order in the auditorium. It’s been like this for years. You could forgive the peeling paint … but why can’t they replace the light bulbs? I guess they don’t care.

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Maximus December 18, 2011 at 12:37 pm

no money for a ladder to get to the bulbs perhaps?

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magwa December 19, 2011 at 7:42 pm

@kelly secret cinema maybe? :)

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CeeBee December 16, 2012 at 8:56 am

Really impressive bar, beautiful decor, very cool vibe but the service, sadly, is non-existent. The young staff are clearly having a great time, but the customers less so. The night we were there, we counted seven staff, but rather than serving, they were having a great time chatting and horsing around with each other, singing etc and happily ignoring the paying customers. A number of people who had lost patience trying to get the attention of one of the many servers standing in huddles chatting and giggling were queued up at the bar (which was literally piled high with unwashed glasses and plates, which were also being ignored) clutching menus hopefully, and were still getting ignored! Among the worst we’ve come across in Wellington, which is a town where good service is generally a given.

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