The Civic is a Category One-classified protected building and is New Zealand’s premier lyric theatre with 2379 seats split across two levels. The Civic, one of the few remaining ‘atmospheric’ theatres in the Southern Hemisphere, was built in 1929 in just eight months. It was specifically designed as a ‘movie palace’ for talking pictures (‘talkies’), which had just been introduced to New Zealand. It was the first purpose-built cinema of this type in the country, and today is a much-loved Auckland landmark and entertainment venue. The Civic was – and is – an outstanding example of the ‘atmospheric cinema’ genre, with a unique soft-top ceiling design that floats above the auditorium, allowing the famed stars and clouds effect that is a recreation of the Southern Hemisphere night sky. Look up at the start of a show and see if you can spot the shooting star!
Why might I recognise the theatre?
The rich and opulent Rococo-style interior reflects an Indian rock-hewn temple, and Indian motifs abound. In the public foyer, these include seated Buddhas, twisted columns and domed ceilings – and many elephants. The main auditorium features Moorish turrets, minarets, spires, tiled roofs, and Abyssinian panther statues – often mistakenly referred to as lions – with their glowing green eyes, have all been faithfully restored to their former glory. The Civic has had a somewhat turbulent history, but was restored to its former glory in the late 1990s by Auckland City Council, and reopened in December 1999 after a two-year, $42 million restoration. The restoration provided the opportunity to convert the venue to live theatre capacity and upgrade it to modern movie technology. As a result, The Civic has become a popular venue for major touring shows, while once again providing Auckland’s most sumptuous cinema experience.
- The Civic is considered the home of musicals in New Zealand.
- Has hosted musicals like Jersey Boys, Mary Poppins, Matilda the Musical, Disney’s Aladdin the Musical, and The Book of Mormon
- Has also hosted Bob Dylan, Roberta Flack, Elaine Page, The Rolling Stones, Mavis Staples, Nick Cave, Sufjan Stevens, and Sir David Attenborough
- The home of NZ International Film Festival