Pure Hollywood in Pahiatua for Hobbit premiere

By nathan.crombie@age.co.nz, Nathan Crombie

Cadillacs, red carpet and Hollywood kings and queens will all feature at the Tararua district premiere of The Hobbit at the Regent Upstairs Cinema in Pahiatua next month.

Pahiatua Upstairs Cinema Society president David Lea said the 7pm screening on December 12 of the Peter Jackson-directed prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy will be the first nationwide release session at the community-owned theatre since it opened in 1940.

The Pahiatua Repertory Society bought the theatre from the Kerridge-Odeon company in 1977, saving the then 600-seat theatre from closure.

An honorary and voluntary crew have run the theatre ever since and about $1 million has been spent renovating and restoring the former art deco glory of the building, which today seats 120 upstairs at the cinema and about the same number downstairs at a live theatre.

The societies have yet to install updated seating in the cinema, a lift, and new heating and lighting, Mr Lea said, which would cost about $200,000.

Mr Lea, a past Tararua district deputy mayor, said the idea of holding a gala event fundraiser for the premiere was generated between himself and his two brothers, Peter and Bruce, who serve respectively as the president of the Pahiatua Repertory Society and cinema manager.

"We were offered The Hobbit for a day and date screening - which is a first ever for the theatre - and the idea for a fundraiser just sprang from there."

Mr Lea said about 100 dignitaries have been invited to the premiere, including Tararua district Mayor Roly Ellis, district councillors and representatives from the business community.

Each of the dignitaries would assume the mantle of a Hollywood star and would gather in the green room at the rear of the building ahead of the premiere's official start.

Luxury vehicles including a pair of Cadillacs from 1960 and 1961 will ferry the dignitaries round the block to the front of the theatre, where media representatives and repertory society members posing as paparazzi will snatch photos and quotes from the assembling Hollywood elite.

The celluloid "stars" will be ushered on arrival into the downstairs area of the theatre, Mr Lea said, where they will enjoy champagne before the screening.

Tararua District Council communications and marketing manager Lianne Simpkin said the luxury cars belong to a business launching in Dannevirke, Timeless Tours, and other northern Wairarapa businesses and the council were also supporting the gala event.


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