The dismal holiday weather hasn't been kind to some businesses - but others can't stop smiling. Michael Dickison reports on the winners and losers of our damp start to summer


Movie theatres

The big winners of this wet summer have been movie theatres, where parents have been taking their restless kids to films such as



Alvin & the Chipmunks


- often more than once.

"We're hearing stories of parents going to Alvin three times," says Event Cinemas general manager for New Zealand Carmen Switzer.

The summer is always busy for cinemas, but this year the crowds have exceeded expectations, she says. "For Tintin, in big locations every show was sold out for two or three days in a row, even with plenty of sessions. They were running every hour."

The patronage at theatres around the country shows a pattern of holidayers returning early to Auckland, she says. Cinemas at holiday spots have been busy during the new year period, and numbers are now swelling in the city.

Ms Switzer says a comparison with Australia shows how much New Zealand cinemas are experiencing a bumper year.

The release of Sione's Wedding 2 next week will keep the momentum going for the rest of the school holidays, she says.

Ice skating, Snow Planet
With summer failing to arrive, many people are taking to winter sports instead.

The indoor ski slopes at Snow Planet have been visited by 20 per cent more people than last year as holidayers look for alternative activities on rainy days.

"One of the things I've been noticing is we've been very strong with families, stronger than anticipated," says chief executive Tony O'Regan.

"If you're on holiday with the kids, you're limited in your options. This is a great place for them to come and stay all day.

"They can be watered and fed while they're here, and some come at 9am and leave at 5pm."

Some days at the Paradice ice skating rink in Botany have been as busy as the peak winter season.

Manager Scott Willdridge says the crowds fluctuate with the weather - even on marginally fine days people seem determined to stay outside.

Shopping malls
Sales figures aren't available yet, but it is plain to see that there are more teenagers and frustrated holidayers hanging out at shopping malls.

Westfield spokeswoman Debra McGhie says it would normally be a busy time of the year anyway, and people go to malls to seek shelter from the sun as well as rain.

"But there has been an increase in visitations. We can see that. There's no doubt about it," she says

"And there's no doubt the weather would have assisted to lift the visitations. They might go to the movies, meet friends - it's more than just shopping, though that's foremost."

Paymark eftpos transaction figures for December show a 3.4 per cent lift in spending on last year, and retailers have spoken of wet weather bolstering shopper numbers.

Restaurants, at least those that have stayed open, have had a glimmer of good business this season - a rare piece of positive news for the industry, says Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois.

"People aren't going out to the beaches and doing outdoor activities. But they're still on holiday and want to do something, so they go for lunches or a couple of drinks and snacks at local restaurants," she says. "People have time on their hands."

Family restaurant Hammerheads, on the Auckland waterfront, says many families have been sitting at the bar to pass some time. "The weather it definitely seems to encourage people to go out.

"We've taken more bookings," says administration manager Michelle Conder.

Laser tag, video games
The "laser tag" attraction at Megazone, near Sylvia Park, has seen as much as 45 per cent more people come through than a typical summer.

"It's been really busy everyday," says owner Mike McElwee.

Groups of adults without the option of going to the beach are making their way to the game to simulate shooting each other.

Older teenagers are also common, along with the typical demographic of 7-12 year olds.

Video gaming has also been a winner, as some parents say they've given up trying to tear their children away from their consoles - there's little else to do.

Libraries have been the answer to a mother's prayer on wet days - including more than 5000 Auckland children who have signed up for a reading challenge.

The programme was created by Auckland Council children's librarians and runs until January 27.

Mirla Edmundson, who manages 20 libraries in the city's north and west says: "It's a guided journey of discovery, which our research tells us is what children want. They want choice and time to explore."


Swimming pools
The Parnell Baths - normally a hotspot - have been almost empty as traditional summer activities take a backseat.

"There are a few die-hard types who swim the lanes, and maybe a couple of families go and have a play. But we haven't yet seen the big numbers of teenage groups. They're somewhere else," said Community Leisure Management director John Latimer.

Rectangular indoor pools were also quiet, but those with waves and other leisure facilities - such as the Mt Albert Aquatic Centre - were up, he said.

"Overall the business impact has been pretty poor, really. January is a pretty important month in our business. The more the bad weather goes on the more it impacts our finances."

Music and festivals
Auckland's Jazz at the Rotunda event, part of the council's Music in the Parks series, was cancelled last weekend for poor weather.

Bookings at other outdoor events have been slow, though the Bloom family festival next weekend is confident of sunshine and big crowds.

The wet weather is causing hesitation with bookings for Shakespeare in the Park, says Pumphouse Box Office administrator Gill Saker.

"When it was raining all last week it was a little slow.

"I think people just weren't in the head space for thinking about sitting outside," she says.

People in the events industry say other outdoor events have had to bring in $45,000 marquees at the last minute.

But Bloom festival director Francis Hughes is confident of cracking ahead with a plan B of "the show goes on".

"The outlook's very good. It will be sunny," he said.

People will be struck with cabin fever by now and next weekend is just the right time for families who want to make sure they do something together during the holidays to get on with it, he says. Fishing baitSome keen fisherman won't let any kind of weather stop them - but for the most part there is little bait being sold without proper boating weather.

Nobody is buying bait - but there are some sales of surfcasting equipment so people can get away and stand on a beach, even if they can't catch anything.

Go Fish Tackle owner Greg Hill says the fishing in Auckland is great at this time of year. "But I know some stores are really quiet, especially in the holiday locations."

A fishing shop on the Coromandel Peninsula says it is struggling. "Everything's down in the fishing trade," says a shopkeeper.

Easterly winds mean the fishing is poor, and nobody is going out on their boats.

The only people buying sunscreen are those heading abroad, says a chemist.

Wylies retail manager Becky Grimwood says nobody is thinking about sunscreen when they can't see any sun.

"Basically we haven't sold much at all. People who are going overseas are basically the only people who are buying sunscreen."

But Cancer Society chief executive Dalton Kelly says sales of the society's sunscreen is the same as last year, and people need to remember to have protection even on cloudy days.

"You can often get burned when the sun's not out, and you need to put it on 15 minutes before getting out in the sun."

Summer sports
The tennis tournaments in Auckland are often marquee summer events. Provincial cricket shines during a rare break from the dominance of rugby.

But this year both codes have been all but wiped off the public imagination by the rain. Three of the 14 scheduled Twenty20 matches have been abandoned and two have been reduced-overs games.

Auckland expected a crowd of about 2500 for their opening match against Wellington, but barely 500 turned up. The damp weather is a big loss for the game's finances.

Meanwhile, the women's ASB Classic finals were forced indoors by rain while the scheduling of the men's Heineken Cup has been thrown into disarray.

Icecream vans
Mr Whippy driver Matt Pickering says he does not even bother to go out on rainy days.

"It's a bit hard to sell ice creams when it's raining," he says.

"This year has been the worst."

Mr Pickering is the franchisee for central-east Auckland, which includes a few beaches.

He says beaches can always be hit and miss - compared to the regular trade along residential streets.

There have been a couple of days this year with a decent turnover, but he is counting on a long, late summer. "It's a little bit down on last year because of the weather and hopefully things will get better. Summer goes right up to about April."