Wellington cinema for sale is Paramount

10:05 AM Friday November 18, 2016 Colin Taylor

The 1917-built Paramount Theatre was first cinema in Wellington to feature ‘talkies’.

A Wellington landmark cinema buildings, the Paramount Theatre, is on the market, offering its buyer a strong and diversified income along with future redevelopment potential.

The freehold property at 25-29 Courtenay Place has retail and hospitality tenants in addition to the cinema, and is for sale through Sam McIlroy and Richard Findlay of Colliers International, by deadline private treaty closing on December 7.

McIlroy says the 1917 building, which last changed hands in 2004, is Category 2 listed with the NZ Historic Places Trust.

“It is a prime investment opportunity with rarely-available characteristics,” he says.

“It’s a big property encompassing a land holding of 1099 square metres. Sites of this scale don’t come up for sale very often on Wellington’s Golden Mile,” he says.

“It also has a diversified income stream from several tenants and a prominent frontage to Courtenay Place. This profile, along with its landmark status, means it is likely to be viewed as a trophy holding by many local property investors.”

McIlroy says the ground floor retailers, which include Glengarry and Kaffee Eis, are well-established at the property and occupy highly-visible units on the building’s 23m street frontage.

The building’s other tenants are Paramount Cinema, Taco Queen and South Indian restaurant Kera-La-Carte. Income from a Spark cell tower and a billboard complete the total net rent roll of about $520,000 a year.

The buyer could also redevelop the building within heritage guidelines, with resource consent in place to construct a four-star apartment hotel on the site in the future. Consent has been granted for a purpose-designed refurbishment comprising 44 to 46 apartments over four levels, says McIlroy.

“There is a significant redevelopment opportunity. Existing plans are for loft-styled apartments and a new four-storey atrium constructed to 100 per cent of New Building Standard. The existing tenancies on the ground floor would remain, along with the heritage facade,” he says.

“Given the tightly-held nature of property on Courtenay Place, we expect buyers will view this as a very attractive option for generating added value in future.”

McIlroy says the neoclassical building was designed by architect James Bennie and built at a time when Courtenay Place was more like a village rather than the bustling entertainment precinct it is today.

“The Paramount was the first cinema in Wellington to show ‘talkies’. Silent movies were usually accompanied by live music, so a recorded soundtrack was a real novelty.”

The theatre originally comprised a two-level auditorium with 1511 seats. In 1926, it closed for a complete renovation led by Bennie. This reduced the seating capacity to 1394 and also added art deco details to the façade, including a stepped parapet with decorative panels. The facade remains virtually unaltered today.

In 1934 a Wurlitzer organ was installed which had been transported from its previous home in the Paramount Theatre in Nelson. The interior was re-designed yet again by Bennie in 1943, but due to wartime restrictions, not all the plans were carried out.

In 1960-1961, significant structural works were undertaken by the Wellington City Council (then owners), to split the cinema and ground floor retail units into separate tenancies. The orchestra level was also converted into offices.

The building had further extensive renovations and seismic upgrades in 2004 and 2005.

There are now three cinemas within the Paramount tenancy, including a bar area and a balcony area overlooking Courtenay Place. The main cinema seats 432 people and the two smaller cinemas seat 44 and 60 people.