Editorial: Theatre's main attraction not lost to change

By Roger Moroney

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It would be fair to say that many hearts sink when a part of history comes down.

Especially a part full of childhood memories - of days when you just took it for granted that it was just a building and that it would always be there.

But times change and nothing is guaranteed to "be there" forever.

This week it became clear a great slab of one of the grand old bastions of "picture theatres" in Napier was coming down.

The old State Theatre, where they showed actual reels of film and had ushers and usherettes walking the dark aisles with their torches, looking for the kids rolling Jaffas down the sloping wooden floors.

And as the interior began to disappear and the great slab walls came down, cries of despair began appearing on Facebook pages.

Many described it as the loss of another grand old building, but in essence that is not so, because the only architecturally memorable part of it (the corner frontage) will remain.

Concrete slab walls and a giant corrugated iron roof are not landmarks.

Times must change and we are fortunate, in the sense of retaining slices of history, that we live in these times.

For in the days before it was realised we had a CBD chocka with Art Deco-inspired buildings, I daresay the decision would have been made to pull the theatre down - all of it.

The way the two dear old bank buildings which diagonally faced each other were pulled down 30 or so years ago.

And in these new times, with new building-height regulations, we thankfully won't see another multi-storey blot on the landscape like the vacant towers of mid Emerson and Tennyson streets.

What we have now is progress, but it is controlled progress.

Keeping that facade, which has a heritage rating in place anyway, means the memories of those old days of lining up for the John Wayne matinee on a Saturday morning, and the half-time dash to get a chocolate bomb, can still be stirred up.

It was never going to be used in an auditorium sense any more because times change, so its revamping into a cafe and hairdressing centre is good news.

And equally good news is that the distinctive 80-year-old frontage remains.

A fine compromise.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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