Back when it first opened in the early 2000’s, Reading Cinemas at 100 Courtney Place was Wellington’s mecca for young teens like me. It represented the pinnacle of ‘cool’.
This is where I had my first ever date. I was 12 or 13 years old, obsessed with the Sims, my iPod, Paul Frank PJ’s and Converse sneakers. The guy was from my drama class - the gold standard in geeky after school activities. I brought my two friends from school along to my date because I was terrified of sitting in a dark movie theatre with a BOY. On meeting, I suggested going to see the film ’13 Going on 30’. Much to his credit, he agreed. In the dark cinema, I wished that like Jennifer Garner I too could crawl into a closet and come out aged 30, with all this horrific dating business behind me. I refused to talk to him pretty much the whole of the movie and the week after the date ended I told him on MSN messenger that we should just be friends. The whole experience had been so traumatic I never messaged him again.
"This is where I had my first ever date. I was 12 or 13 years old, obsessed with the Sims, my iPod, Paul Frank PJ’s and Converse sneakers"
Fortunately, both I, my friends and Reading Cinemas have grown up a lot since then (two friends - one of whom was on that date with me - that worked in neighbouring shops at Reading as teens went on to get married to each other!) The biggest change, however, came in 2016 when after a magnitude 7 earthquake struck on 14 November 2016 and the entire Reading carpark needed to be demolished. Despite the years and all these changes, Reading Cinema has remained a constant in my life, and the lives of other Wellingtonians. It’s now undergoing an exciting evolution, putting the buzz back into this major movie house. Which is great because in recent months this is Matt and my favourite place for a quiet Friday night date that's not going to break the bank!
"...Which is great because in recent months this is Matt and my favourite place for a quiet Friday night date that's not going to break the bank!"
You might have noticed that since re-opening, Reading Cinema’s has had a bit of a face lift, knocking out some of the older more tired areas and replacing these with an open plan ‘arena’ of sorts. This iconic Wellington space is situated in an amazing part of the city, right opposite Te Papa on one side, St James Theatre on the other and soon Peter Jacksons Film Museum - so re-booting it made complete sense. It has posh new black tiles, a fresh lick of paint and - let’s be honest - a very cool new Macca’s. There are outdoor picnic tables, bean bags, a big screen projecting movies and lots of space to hang out. Don’t worry, there are still the long standing residents of Reading Cinemas you know and love - Wendy’s ice creams, you’ll always be there for me! But this was all just setting the stage for the REAL exciting development: The Courtyard.
"This iconic Wellington space is situated in an amazing part of the city, right opposite Te Papa on one side, St James Theatre on the other and soon Peter Jacksons Film Museum - so re-booting it made complete sense"
Rebranded The Courtyard, the space is now an indoor food and entertainment park set to provide Welly residents with a warm comfortable space to meet, eat and enjoy everything from live music, to markets and pop-up events. And after attending last night’s launch event, I can see that Readings have really put thought into embracing our Wellington ways. For example, knowing our obsession with doughnuts, they got Fix and Fogg and Tomboy’s Bakery to make delicious free doughnuts for the opening Friday and Saturday. Also, instead of filling The Courtyard with chain-restaurants, they’ve made the food area full of little pop-up booths (a bit like those in Moore Wilsons’s) which can be hired out by micro restaurants of Wellington to serve up fresh food.
"Rebranded The Courtyard, the space is now an indoor food and entertainment park set to provide Welly residents with a warm comfortable space to meet, eat and enjoy everything from live music, to markets and pop-up events"
The vibe is one of a food truck rally but with the benefit of being weather proof with little blooming food businesses like Tex Mex, Kravings, Twist and Pour and Smoothie Love, alongside more established stalwarts like The Hop Garden on-site! It’s a great way to spend a gloomy Friday Night or Saturday when it’s raining and cold outside but you still want to go and unwind. Later on, you can even catch a great cheesy-yet-empowering action film like Wonderwoman at one of the huge cinema’s upstairs for just $10. I also hear a rumour that Hop Garden is going to take over a bar at the back of the space! Hurrah!!
"Fed, dry, watching a mindless movie on a huge screen? What more could a girl want?"
The Courtyard acknowledges how much we love our local small Wellington vendors and businesses - and also a good wee Carnival. Last night was the start of a weekend launch event – aptly named the Weekend Block Party, which continues today (from 2 pm - 8 pm) make sure you check it out! Saturday will be a fun day with a huge handmade craft market by The Craft Market, free workshops for all ages, plus lots of giveaways from our friends upstairs at Reading Cinemas. This is BASICALLY my dream Friday night/grey Saturday activity - which is how I know that I am def over 25 now. Fed, dry, watching a mindless movie on a huge screen? What more could a girl want?
Last night I was lucky enough to head along to the opening - a bubbly and interesting experience all ‘round. With a DJ, fancy pineapple props and lots of food and beer - a good mix of Aussie Little Creatures and Panhead - my stomach was well catered for (and because it is Wellington I found myself bumping into my property manager - some things never change, eh Welly?). Then there were speeches. It was amazing to hear Chairperson of Readings International, Ellen Cotter (who’d flown in from Los Angeles!! That’s commitment!!), and Matthew Bourke, Managing Director of Real Estate, Reading International talk very sincerely about how much they genuinely cared about saving this place and leading it into a new era post-earthquake. Later on, I was fortunate to find myself talking to Ellen Cotter who stated “The safety of people, that was my main concern” she says of the decision to have to demolish the carpark. “That’s what kept me up at night!”
"I for one will be backing The Courtyard and am looking forward to seeing it take flight as a regular in the capital"
We Wellingtonians can be an intimidating bunch and we’ll tell you if we do or don’t like something - so I really respected that these guys made an amazing effort to bring life and fun back to this wonderful place in Wellington (that we probably are more attached to than we think). I for one will be backing The Courtyard and am looking forward to seeing it take flight as a regular in the capital. After interviewing almost 100 residents of Welly, I think I know what makes Wellingtonians different - and actually, it isn’t hard to work out: We think it's cool to care. And what I saw last night was that these guys definitely care about the future of Readings in Wellington.
Get into The Courtyard to peruse the markets from 10 am today (Saturday 22 July), with the party continuing until 8 pm.
This blog post is sponsored by Reading Cinemas but as usual, all opinions are my own.