The St James Theatre, just a few streets back from Auckland’s harbour, closed in 2007 after a fire, and has not reopened to the public since.
Last week, New Zealand’s national government pledged to provide $15 million in funding to bring the venue back to life, with Auckland Council having also promised $15 million to help restore the venue.
Built in 1928, the venue is listed as a Historic Place Category 1 by Heritage New Zealand. The venue is a testament to both the popularity of vaudeville comedy acts which were popular at the time the theatre was built and early American picture house design as venues like these began to be used to screen films.
Queen Elizabeth II attended a performance at St James Theatre on a visit to New Zealand in 1981.
“After being closed for the last 15 years, our government’s contribution towards the preservation of the St James Theatre will sit alongside funding from the Auckland Council and the owner to support its restoration so that it can reopen for the wider public to enjoy again – concert experiences, stately décor and all,” said New Zealand’s minister for arts, culture and heritage, Carmel Sepuloni.
“Successive Governments have signalled their support for the project, but I’m pleased that we’re able to finally get this contribution across the line, to help save this important piece of cultural and national heritage.
“It goes without saying, Auckland has been through a lot in recent times, but I hope that our Government’s support towards the St James as part of the arts precinct, will help keep the heartbeat of the city centre alive.
“I want to acknowledge the longstanding support the Theatre has had and the various ongoing campaigns to preserve the St James. It proves that communities across Aotearoa New Zealand value this taonga of live performance and cultural heritage and are eager to see it saved,” said Sepuloni.