Christchurch's State Cinema

On the North-east corner of Colombo and Gloucester Streets is an unfortunate example of recycling defacing rather than preserving a building's character.


When the State Cinema opened in 1935 the city gained a fine example of Art Deco decoration. It was the work of a local architect, Francis Willis, who was the readiest in the Christchurch of the late 1920s and 1930s to experiment with decorative building design.


His experiments were not always entirely successful, but in the case of the State Cinema he attractively embellished a simple box of a building with curves, chevrons and lettering, all in slight relief. The effect was stylised, but the cinema was one of the best examples in Christchurch of decorative work of the 1930s.


When the cinema's lease expired in 1977, the building was converted to accommodate the growth of a duty free shop which had long occupied the ground floor. The exterior of the building was sheathed in white fibre glass panels intended to give the building a modern look compatible with the new Rural Bank building on the opposite corner. The result has reduced what had been a notable building to a boring white box.


Canterbury Heritage, a journal of the province's social history and cultural heritage.

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  • Mel Hodgkinson PRO 7y

    Boring white box is right. How tragic.
  • Canterbury Heritage 7y

    Thanks for the comment. Art Deco has been described as the Rococo of the modernist era. One can only hope that one day the original facade will be revealed again.
  • Steve, Sandra, Ben & Charlie Lawrence 7y

    I've always hated that building in its current form, and it's interesting to see what's behind it. I'm not a big fan of Art Deco but I wonder how easily those fibreglass panels could be removed to restore it to at least its original glory? The council should make them!!
  • Canterbury Heritage 7y

    Fortunately the historically significant facade is preserved behind the ugly megashed cladding.

    In the only NZ city not provide protection for heritage buildings we may have to wait for more enlightened times before we can see this outstanding example of Art Deco design again.
  • Steve, Sandra, Ben & Charlie Lawrence 7y

    After seeing this, a friend of mine at work has gotten in touch with Mike Crean at The Press who covers heritage issues. He had no idea what was behind the facade of this building either and is interested in running a piece on it in the paper. The power of the net, eh!?
  • Canterbury Heritage 7y

    That's great news - I'd be pleased to offer any assistance to Mike Crean with an article about the building.
  • ars666 PRO 7y

    i was looking at this the other day and you can actually see a small section (maybe about 1 foot wide?) of the original facade peaking out on the colombo st side of the building.
  • Canterbury Heritage 7y

    This is the part of the original facade peaking out on the Colombo St side of the building.
  • Steve, Sandra, Ben & Charlie Lawrence 7y

    Do you happen to know what the building opposite on Colombo Street is called? The red brick and grey stone one? Thanks!
  • Canterbury Heritage 7y

    I presume that you're referring to the surviving remnant of the Luck Building (above Right). Designed by the Architect Isaac Luck, in the received history of Christchurch it's designated as having been built in 1880, but doesn't appear in the photographic before 1898. Most of it was demolished in 1973 to make way for the nondescript MFL building.
  • Steve, Sandra, Ben & Charlie Lawrence 7y

    Wow, that building was absolutely stunning. It pains me to think of these buildings being destroyed. Christchurch would be such a stunning place if these buildings were still around.
  • 6y

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called Capturing our culture, and we'd love to have this added to the group!
  • IcecreamBoy1 4y

    Thanks Canterbury Heritage. Sorry, Messrs R, M and J Moodabe - Amalgamated Theatres and 2oth Century Fox NZ - but you have a LOT to answer for in the "post-video" epoch!
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