Yesteryear’s movie theatre in a charming small town…Everybody’s Theatre…

As soon as we got out of our car on Tasman Street on AmeriCARna Day (a sunny day), we knew entering this historic theatre would be a treat.

On February 26th, we traveled the one hour drive to the small oceanfront farming community of Opunake to see one of the stopping points of the popular annual New Zealand classic car event, AmeriCARna.

Ticket pricing list in the lobby.
Lobby view.

Arriving early as usual with the intent of perusing the town, we parked along the main boulevard, Tasman Street, to see a venue that had caught our attention online, Everybody’s Theatre.

Antique chairs in the lobby.

The doors to the theatre were open as we tentatively entered to inquire if we could “nose around” to take a few photos. Often prior to visiting a village for the first time, we check online to determine what we may want to see as an aside to the original purpose of our visit. 

Last night, as we entered the main floor seating area before the 26 viewers arrived for Boutique Night.

A highly entertaining aspect to this serendipitous theatre is the use of old sofas, comfy chairs and recliners for the main floor seating with an array of blankets, handmade afghans and throw pillows for viewer’s uses for staying warm as if they were in their own living rooms watching a movie. We couldn’t help but try many of the furniture pieces giggling all the while.

Not only are comfy sofas and chairs strategically placed on the main level, but there are side and coffee tables for beverages and snacks during the movie.  Note the blankets hanging over the backs of the furniture.

With traditional seating on the balcony level for the more traditional movie viewer’s the theatre has it all, meticulously maintained, modern, and well equipped with a tucked away concession area with popcorn, candy, and cold beverages.

Last night, we sat on this comfortable blue leather sofa in the “front row.”

The high point for us in Opunake, was the historic Everybody’s Theatre, once a general store in the 1912 era, converted in 1920 to a “picture theatre” with shops in the rear, with the entrance to the theatre on Tasman street for easy access for the public.

What a clever idea!  Most likely locals donated the comfy furniture!
In 1980, the then owner Bruce Whiting, on a path to retirement attempted to sell the theatre with no results.  Anticipating no other options, Whiting decided to close the theatre. The closely-knit village wasn’t about to let this historic landmark wither away with time and wear.
As the movie began, there were a few ads presented, mainly for local farms.
In April 1980, a local group called a meeting with 500 to 600 in attendance and Everybody’s Theatre was born through generous local donations, loans and the hard work of many volunteers since that period. With all debt and debentures paid off by 1994, the theatre thrives as a local source of entertainment for both locals and visitors alike sustaining itself through its revenue.
Color-matched row on the main floor.

We can’t resist posting the names of the many years of dedicated volunteers (from the Everybody’s Theatre website) who continue to work with love and devotion to continue the legacy of this unique theatre:

  • Since 1980 the theatre is run by volunteers – projectionists, cashiers, ushers, managers, cleaners.
  • Original Trustee for Everybodys Theatre,  Mr Leo Hickey, who offered to be Manager for 6 months, retires after 18 years service in 1998.
  • 1999 Ian Wither retired after 13 years as Secretary/Treasurer, but 18 years total on committee.
  • 1999 Annette Wither retired after 18 years on the committee.
  • 2010 – Robert Fisher passed away after 30 years actively being involved with the theatre as a Projectionist, Chairman, Committee member.
  • Kath Murray an active usher retired after 19 years in 2011.
  • 2011 Bev Henderson announced retirement after 28 years on the committee, president, cashier and cleaner.
  • Graham Dodd, a current projectionist, involved since 1986, prints the flyers for distribution at a greatly discounted rate.
  • Fred Schultz passed away in 2014 after years of involvement with the theatre as an usher.
  • Debbie Campbell, Maree Drought, Graham Dodd, Kim Gatenby, Shane Butler and Len Pentalow are current projectionist. 
The balcony includes traditional seating as well as some furniture pieces and blankets.

Now, modernized with current digital movie viewing equipment, Everybody’s Theatre provides a fine viewing experience for the most avid of moviegoers in the Taranaki Region, attracting tourists from many areas.

Antique projection equipment located in the concession area.

On AmeriCARna day, we met the lovely above mentioned volunteer Debbie Campbell, who excitedly mentioned a special night upcoming on March 6th, referred to a “Boutique Night” who again warmly greeted us at last night’ event.

Antique projection camera.

Not only is a current popular movie presented onscreen but Boutique Night is also a social event held before the started of the night’s movie which included an included beer or glass of wine and appetizers at a cost of NZ $25, US $17 per person.

More antique movie theatre equipment.  Note the old tear-off tickets.

Excited to write a story about this charming venue, we knew there was no way we could resist returning for last night’s special event. We’d have an opportunity to see the theatre “in action” during this social occasion and, to watch a movie, The Danish Girl, for which the supporting actress, Alicia Vikander, most recently won the Academy Award.

Props for the photo booth.

The excellent movie was practically incidental for us when we were entranced by the charm of the theatre, the well presented and served appetizers, the energy and enthusiasm of the volunteer staff, all  of whom were seamlessly scurrying about to create a flawless experience. And, that is was, indeed.

Tom, holding a gold Oscar statue!

We were fortunate to chat with a few local residents during the social period, only adding to the unique and memorable night.  We’re continually amaze by the friendly nature of the Kiwi people and treasure each conversation as truly a gift. (Thanks, Hugh!  It was wonderful meeting you)!

Sitting in the “photo booth” on our first visit.

On other movie nights that don’t include the special Boutique Night’s pre-movie party, the prices are reasonable, certainly by our past movie viewing experiences in the US, with high prices. Most movies are in the NZ $10, US $6.82 range with discounts for seniors over 65 at NZ $8, US $5.46. 

More props for the photo booth.

Everybody’s Theatre is also available as an affordable venue for special events as detailed in this page on their website.

Debbie and other volunteer staff were busy preparing the cheese boards which included a variety of cheeses, breads and crackers.  Later during intermission delicious-looking, chocolate desserts were served. Tom ate everything including both desserts.

Where can one find a movie theatre experience to top a visit to Everybody’s Theatre when it includes a trip to “yesteryear” along with a popular movie?  certainly not at any movie theatre we’ve seen in our world travel.

Thanks to Debbie and her staff for making this evening one we’ll always remember with fondness and appreciation!

Photo from one year ago today, March 7, 2015:

In Kauai, while walking on the steep path down to Hideaway’s Beach, the seawater was so clear we could see little fish swimming in this tide pool. Please click here for more photos.