Mummy's the word at cinema centre launch

By Anne Gibson

SkyCity Cinemas opens its newest multiplex at Westfield Manukau next weekend, ready for the school holidays and the arrival of the blockbuster film Mummy - Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

The 1932-seat, three-level, 10-screen complex starts trading next Saturday and Lisa Chambers, SkyCity Cinemas' marketing manager, said the biggest theatre had 364 seats and a mega-screen 20.45m by 8.7m.

Pixar's new animated movie Wall-E opens this month along with Walt Disney comedy Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Paramount's Son of Rambowand Hoyts Distribution's The Forbidden Kingdom.

Cinema-goers are expecting to spread out more in their new seats so the new Manukau theatres have been fitted with extra-wide seats with double arm rests and extensive leg room, all arranged in stadium format to give the best views.

Hiren Patel, assistant projects manager at SkyCity Cinemas, said the seats were manufactured by Camatic in Australia and arrived in flat-pack format in containers.

The new complex has 8928sq m of carpet imported from China. Screens came from Harkness in Virginia in the United States and projector equipment from Germany.

All the projectors are 35mm, but one has digital capacity, Mr Patel said.

About 100 tradespeople and builders were on-site last week and Bridget Davy, SkyCity Manukau complex manager, said 70 staff were employed to run the centre.

Lisa Chambers said two deluxe cinemas had a combined 140 reclining leather seats and an exclusive lounge, part of SkyCity Manukau's premium-class experience and the first time the business had offered this. The deluxe cinemas are one level of luxury below SkyCity's gold class.

Like the 10-screen 1836-seat SkyCity Albany, the new Manukau theatres have been integrated into the mall. The cinema entrance way is opposite Whitcoulls and Stevens and security grilles will drop down to keep the shops off-limits to movie-goers after the mall shuts.

Escalators and stairs take patrons up one level out of the shopping centre to 13 ticket and candy counters.

The cinema building was developed by shopping centre owner Westfield in an area formerly used as parking on the northwestern point of its site on Ronwood Ave.

Westfield spent $70 million expanding and upgrading the shopping centre and building the theatres and it is leasing the multiplex to SkyCity on an initial 10-year term.

As part of the upgrade, Westfield expanded its centre by 230 carparks and opened an extra 35 shops in the mall. SkyCity is leaving its existing Manukau building with its rooftop big-reel visible from the Southern Motorway.

The old building is about five minutes' drive from Manukau's city centre. Lisa Chambers said that building was Auckland's first multiplex, opened 17 years ago and owned by Westfield.

Deb McGhie, Westfield spokeswoman, said the community had involvement in the new cinemas.

"The artwork on the exterior of the new cinemas was completed by Manukau School of Visual Arts students," she said.

Bill Hood, executive director of the Motion Picture Distributors Association, said almost every cinema in New Zealand had either been refurbished, expanded or re-built in the last few years.

"The cinemas have become very consumer-friendly now," he said.

SkyCity has 19 theatres in New Zealand of which eight are in Auckland, where it offers more than 13,000 seats.

Cinema seven at SkyCity Albany is still shut, but management are said to be waiting on a new screen to replace the water-damaged screen.

BIG BUCKS
The Motion Picture Distributors Association says:
* There were 15.3 million cinema attendances last year.
* New Zealand has 403 cinema screens.
* Box office revenue last year totalled $152 million.
* Attendances dropped 2 per cent in the July year.
* Biggest SkyCity is the 2254-seat cinema on Queen St.

- NZ Herald

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