A cinema tucked away on one of New Zealand's most famous roads has closed its doors - signalling the end of an era for arthouse movie goers.

Capitol Cinema on the Balmoral stretch of Auckland's Dominion Rd shut for good yesterday - a few days later than originally planned "to give the workers a few more days pay", said owner Richard Dalton.

Numerous economic factors were to blame, Dalton said, with the biggest issue the limitations of the single screen venue.

Despite the promise of an "arthouse cinema experience just like back in the days of newsreels and jaffas on wooden floors" it was the single screen that has been the venue's downfall.


Dalton, who also runs sister cinema The Lido, in Epsom, said it was only the love of the business that kept the doors open so long.

The Capitol Cinema on Dominion Rd was refurbished in 2009 but will close its doors on Tuesday. Photo / NZ Herald
The Capitol Cinema on Dominion Rd was refurbished in 2009 but will close its doors on Tuesday. Photo / NZ Herald

"Basically the cinema has never made a profit – but we've been happy to carry it because we love the building and felt proud of the fit out we'd undertaken."

A 2009 fit-out turned the tired theatre into a plush beautifully refurbished, single-screen cinema.

The neo-Greek designed cinema was built in 1923 and was one of the earliest and most popular suburban venues in Auckland.

The doors shut when the cinema was gutted by fire in 1978 but reopened in 1986 under the management of Th' Dudes manager and cinema man Charley Gray.

Renamed Charley Gray's the stone building became a popular Friday night movie haunt for teens keen to watch classics such as A Clockwork Orange and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Renowned New Zealand filmmaker Ant Timpson remembers going to the Capitol in the 1970s to see Godzilla films but said it was under Charley Gray it became the legendary arthouse cinema.

"The programming was more sophisticated than anywhere in the country and Mr Gray was the consummate showman," Timpson said.


"Charley took me under his wing and I learned a lot about exhibition and the movie business which eventually led me to become manager of the venue after he was gone."

Timpson said the camaraderie among the team at Charley Grays was something special.

The cinema closed down again in the 90s and eventually reopened as Capitol Cinema but shared the space with rock climbing franchise Clip'n'Climb.

"The Capitol also gave birth to The Incredibly Strange Film Festival in 1994 and the opening night party was well out of control," Timpson said.

"I'm sure many are still suffering from the hangover to this day."

Richard Dalton said he did not know what the future held for the cinema but was confident someone would make good use of the cozy space up the old creaky stairs.

"It is a beautiful building and it has a level of protection so someone will do something with it."