The St. James Theatre and Cinema was opened in 1928 as “Auckland’s Greatest Theatre” and has been closed since 2007 after a fire broke out in the entertainment complex which contained the Odeon Cinema, Westend Cinema and Regent Theatre.
I remember going to a metal gig at the St James back in 2006, and although my memory from that night is hazy due to all the BZP and head banging, I still recall how marvellous it was. Fast forward to 2014, and the theatre grandeur was just as impressive as I remember, in fact it gave me fond memories of the those 2 grumpy old men from the Muppets with their theatre balcony box…
The St. James was once fit for the Queen, ornate balcony viewing boxes on the left and right of the stage, beautiful floor to ceiling stained glass windows and plush red velvet drapery, it’s a magnificent glimpse into the days of the 1920s and protected by the Historic Places Trust for good reason.
Without much natural light the actual auditoriums were very dark to explore, dusty seats still remain in place within 3 tiered balconies in the grand performance room, but in contrast The Odeon theatre seating has been damaged and removed, and the plush carpet still has a damp feeling from the fire fighting efforts.
The stage door is plastered in event posters and stickers from old school shows touring the St James. Downstairs, below the stage are the artist and crew dressing rooms, with Hollywood style bulbed mirrors and gold drawings on the wall showing iconic places in Auckland such as the Harbour Bridge, Lion Rock and the Sky Tower. Backstage in the corner of the loading dock, a spiral staircase leads up to more rooms including a lighting / projection room above the Odeon theatre, then eventually bridges into an abandoned international student hostel looking out over Queen Street, all the rooms in the hostel were empty and bare, the remains of some walls lay in piles on the floor in reception…
Thanks to Nathan from Urbex for the opportunity to see this beautiful forgotten venue. There are plans to restore the St James and add apartments on the site around 2018, the new owner is committed to preserving the building and opening it as a performance space once again, which is awesome news for the The St James Saviours too!
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