A very happy birthday to the Victoria Theatre and Picture Palace which celebrated its 99th birthday on Wednesday October 26th. This is also the first anniversary of the Vic’s reopening in 2010 – and what a year it has been.
After a wonderful opening day last October, staff at the theatre settled down to a year of hard slog and harsh reality. Despite teething problems, successful and unsuccessful experiments, and trial and error, The Vic is still running. This year the Vic has shown almost 100 films and plays, (not including one-offs) in addition to numerous live acts and plays.
Films the family and I have seen at the Vic include Red, The Smurfs, Rango, The Ghostwriter, Matariki, Gulliver’s Travels, Harry Potter, Cars 2, The Hangover 2, I am No 4, Rio, The King’s Speech, Tangled, Rango, Wagner and Me, Last Paradise, The Tempest, Gnomeo and Juliet, The Social Network, Bridesmaids, Wild Target, Limitless, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Yogi Bear, The Nature of Existence, Cats and Dogs 2. – The Revenge of Kitty Galore and Passchendale.
While it is clear from this list that I have movie-loving kids, it also illustrates the breadth and depth of films available to the Devonport movie-going public which they may not perhaps see otherwise.
I am unlikely to have made the effort to get to the Bridgeway or outside Devonport for the majority of these films, particularly the more obscure ones, so I am pleased I have had the opportunity. With all the commitments of modern life, a trip to a cinema more than 10 minutes away seems to take quite a bit of planning and organising, so for a real film-lover, having a cinema in our own back yard is a real luxury.
To mark the first year since the reopening and to present the findings of the 6-month survey of cinema goers to the public, John Davies, the Vic’s manager, and Liz Cannon (marketing) recently held a meeting in the Benwell to discuss the results, to explain what changes have been made, and what is planned for the future.
The survey, sent out in May, had 423 hundred respondents, 61% of whom were from the Devonport peninsula, and 80% of whom had been to the Vic. The results were generally positive with regards to staffing, films, environment, the building, pricing and scheduling. Respondents particularly loved the community feel of the theatre and the effect evening opening has had on the surrounding area which is much more lively than previously. The Benwell itself will soon be retired as a cinema and restored to its former function as a lounge with views towards the city, while a third screen with improved acoustics will be located elsewhere in the building.
John also discussed programming and scheduling and went into some detail about the issue of distribution and its attendant problems, particularly with regard to Rialto Distribution and its relationship with The Bridgeway Cinema at Northcote. While there are (well-documented) issues here, John is hopeful that a Commerce Commission complaint will affect what films are available to the Vic, particularly with regard to arthouse films which are a big favourite with the local audience.
So the Vic starts her 100th year in good shape. There is much to be done, but there are all sorts of plans afoot to reach special audiences (book groups and parent and babies for example) and to continue to offer unusual and hard-to-find films as well as mainstream offerings. Happy Birthday to the Vic and to her staff, and thanks for a great year!