Art deco, ice cream and pachyderms

Te Puke’s landmark Capitol Cinema in all its art deco grandness.

It’s a wonderful blast of art deco, a stop-and-ogle landmark down Mainstreet Te Puke. It’s the multi-screen movie complex, the historic Capitol Cinema. And it’s up for sale.

Architecture aside, the building also boasts a large door to one side of the main screen which would give elephants from travelling circuses access to the main stage. The live circus shows of the 1930s and 40s were very popular.

Brendon Bradley, of Bayleys Tauranga, says the Capitol has always kept abreast of cinematographic evolutions and leading movie-goer viewing habits. “It’s enabled the Capitol to remain profitable when similar operations in the big cities have wavered.”

He says the Capitol has the largest mega screen movie complex in the Bay of Plenty, as well as both digital and 3D technology.


When the Capitol screened its first ‘talkie’ movie, also in the 1930s, the cinema had what was believed to be the tallest movie screen in the Southern Hemisphere.

It hasn’t been all movies and elephants.

In 1931, when the earthquake devastated Napier - also renowned for its concentration of art deco architecture - a monster earthquake relief concert raised money for Hawke’s Bay residents.

In 1945, a Victory Ball for VJ Day was held at the Capitol. Scores of soldiers from the Eastern Bay of Plenty were officially welcomed home by the community.

Two years later, more than 800 people packed the Capitol to present ‘tokens of appreciation’ to 174 returned servicemen and women. Each ‘token’ was an envelope containing £17.


The Capitol Cinema was a hub for the town – they boxed there, the debutantes “came out” there, and there were balls, fundraising dances and musical concerts.

In 1954 the Capitol was the first New Zealand cinema to be adapted to ‘cinemascope’ widescreen movies.

In 2003 it was among the first cinemas in the world to screen Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King, when it rolled the film at one minute after midnight.

Two years later the Capitol was among the first venues on the planet to screen Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, which was again screened at one minute after midnight.

In 2009, the installation of a 3D system at the Capitol Cinema meant the theatre was the only one of its kind outside of Auckland to have such cutting-edge technology.

Today, the cinema’s four theatres range from a boutique 20-seater venue to the block-buster 200-seater playhouse – in all a combined capacity of 413 seats.

Now the freehold land, buildings and going concern Capitol Cinema business at 127-133 Jellicoe Street is for sale with offers closing on November 30.