The St James Theatre, at 57 Lorne Street, was built in 1928 to replace Fuller’s Opera House, which was burned down in 1926. It was originally designed for vaudeville acts and comic entertainment, but it soon became a major focus in the social and cultural life of the city. It was designed by the architect, Henry Eli White (1876-1952), a prolific designer of theatres.
The Oliviers performed here on their famous Antipodean tour of 1948. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh saw a showing of the film, The Million Pound Note, here on Boxing Day 1953, and the Queen attended the 1981 Royal Command Performance here.
It is now both a theatre and cinema, but sadly, it has been closed since a fire in 2007 after concerns were raised about safety compliance. In 2014 it was purchased by Relianz Holdings. Adjacent buildings were pulled down to create an apartment project. The theatre itself is not operational at the moment, but it is listed as a ‘Category I’ by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. A lobby group called the St James Saviours was formed in 2010 by Bob Kerridge, son of the former owner, Sir Robert Kerridge (1901-79), with support from famous figures such as Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen and Alan Bennett.
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