New Zealand's northern-most movie screen has long since flickered into darkness and now the building creaks ominously in high winds.
The legendary Swamp Palace community hall has been closed due to safety fears — but locals are determined it will open again, soon.
Oruru Community Hall in Peria was shut by the Far North Dsitrict Council last Wednesday after an inspection by staff found the building had deteriorated badly.
Te Hiku Community Board chairwoman Adele Gardner said it was unlikely the hall would suffer a catastrophic collapse but there was a risk to public safety, especially during severe weather.
That left the council with no option but to temporarily close the building. Signs had gone up and regular users, and anyone who had booked the hall, would be contacted.
Board members and council staff would discuss options for the building's future with the Oruru Hall Committee. It could be several months before repairs were carried out, Gardner said.
Safety concerns identified by the council include sub-floor structural timbers in need of repair, roof trusses which had been removed for the cinema and poor lateral support in high winds. There were also concerns about an external fire escape from the second floor.
An earlier inspection, in 2015, found structural and weather-tightness problems but, at that time, they were not serious enough to warrant closing the hall. The council committed to spending $250,000 to bring the hall up to scratch.
The Northern Advocate understood, however, the work was deferred and the money has not been spent.
News of the closure prompted an outcry on Facebook's Doubtless Bay Noticeboard with locals sharing memories of the hall and calling for it to be saved.
Oruru Hall Committee chairman John Folkard said the hall would be made safe and usable again.
"We've been there before. The hall has had an up-and-down existence."
He believed the $250,000 promised for deferred maintenance was still available and that the building could be made safe within that budget.
Folkard said the hall was historically important. It was built in 1902, originally for the cable station at Cable Bay, and later moved to Oruru.
It gained a nationwide following among movie buffs in the 1990s when former film festival director Richard Weatherly steered, and largely paid for, its transformation into the Oruru Community Cinema, also known as Swamp Palace.
The curtain fell in 2009 when Weatherly retired after 13 years running what was then the country's northernmost picture theatre.
While an attempt by Kaitaia film buffs to keep the cinema open was short-lived, the hall continued to be used for community events, concerts, school productions and even medieval-themed banquets.
Folkard said the hall committee ultimately wanted to take over ownership from the council but wanted the venue in good shape first.
"We'd like it to be returned in a fit state ... I'm not going to start pointing the finger here and there, that's pointless."
Legend has it the name Swamp Place came about when someone suggested Weatherly call his cinema The Palace.
"You can't call it that," he retorted. "It's sitting in a bloody swamp."