Cinema Hastings temporarily closed its doors last night to undergo a major refurbishment, including a new licensed cafe and more comfortable seating.
Owner Matt Bell said only one of nine staff members will retain their jobs while the cinema is refurbished.
"Staff have always been on fixed-term contracts, so this was to be expected."
He said when the cinema re-opened over the Easter Holiday period, between 16-20 staff would be required.
"I've had a great team, great staff. Some of them will reapply for the jobs while a number are heading off to university."
Glenn Hutcheson and his 9-year-old son, Finn, came to the last night of films to watch the second film in Sir Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy.
The pair were unaware the theatre was closing and Mr Hutcheson said he would now frequent Reading cinema in Napier.
The last film before renovations begin was an 8.30pm screening of 47 Ronin, a samurai action film starring Keanu Reeves. Attendance was unsurprisingly low for the Reeves film, a staff member said.
Mr Bell said the front half of the building would be open by Easter, including the two auditoriums upstairs.
"The big cinema won't be open until after the school holidays, largely because of the earthquake strengthening that has to go on in the part of the building."
Overall capacity will be lowered from 700 to 430, giving more arm and leg room.
Focal Point Cinema group, Mr Bell's company, took over the lease of the Heretaunga St East site in late 2012.
It was named Cinema Hastings and last year 3D viewing was installed.