Written Friday, August 1st
Wellington is considered the Hollywood of New Zealand, and with this title comes a dizzying number of Film Festivals, the biggest being the NZ International Film Festival, which is in town right now. I am determined to make the most of the festival this year, and by the time it is finished I will probably have seen more movies on the Big Screen in two and a half weeks than I have seen previously since we moved here. So this seems an appropriate time to talk about the Wellington movie-going experience.
Wellington has 5 major movie theatres - four within a couple blocks of my apartment. They co-exist by filling different niches - the art house theatre, the cheap theatre, etc. - but the fact that they coexist at all in such tight quarters is a testament to the enthusiasm Wellingtonians have for cinema. There are two significant differences in the basic movie-going experience here vs. the States. The first is in the refreshments. There is usually the familiar concessions counter - here called a "candy bar." However, you may not find some of the basic items Americans associate with movies - popcorn and hot dogs. On the other hand, most "candy bars" will be happy to sell you a beer or a glass of wine. Many theatres are also associated with a full cafe, where you can get a beer or a cup of coffee, a muffin or a toasted sandwich, and either enjoy them at the tables (often on the 2nd floor and overlooking the street) or take them right into the movie with you.
The second difference is the hardest for me to get used to: assigned seating. When you purchase a ticket for a film, the ticket is for a particular seat, just like if you were going to a play or a concert. This means if you are going to a popular film you can't just rely on buying tickets right before the movie - you may get stuck with the worst seats. You need to plan ahead, and you need to know what the good seats are for that particular theatre. Mostly box offices will have a seating chart to help you with this. The plus side is that with a little planning and know-how you can get your favourite seats, and you don't need to show up early and wait in a long queue for a popular film on opening night.
The NZ Film Festival also uses a couple of less conventional theatres: the Film Archive, and Te Papa Muesum's Soundings Theatre.
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