The Evening Post
June 20, 2001

Vamping Up for an Epic
Tom Cardy

Lord Of The Rings distributor Roadshow Film Distributors announced yesterday that the first film in the $650 million trilogy would now be released on December 19 in New Zealand - the same day it opens in most of the world.

But because of the time difference, New Zealand will be the first place in the world to screen Peter Jackson's epic.

The Lord Of The Rings will also have a star-studded invitation-only New Zealand premiere about a week before December 19. New Line Cinema, Roadshow and the Embassy Trust are negotiating to have it at the 800-seat Embassy theatre, but the final decision is yet to be made.

The world premiere is unlikely to be in Wellington. The Evening Post understands Britain - birthplace of the fantasy trilogy's late author JRR Tolkien - may be chosen.

Embassy Trust chairman Bill Sheat said today it hoped the Embassy, which will eventually get three new screens as part of its revamp, would host the premiere. Jackson is a member of the trust.

Mr Sheat said the event could be used for fundraising towards the $10 million refurbishment. The first step will be renovating the downstairs and upstairs foyers - including removing the false ceiling to show an art deco design - in time for the premiere.

The large sweet counter in the upstairs foyer would be moved and the wall behind the shop would be removed to create a large space which could be used as a reception area or restaurant, he said.

"We just want it to be a really exciting and fun place for people to go and enjoy their movies."

If the trust can raise the $10 million to cover costs, it will also later refurbish the main cinema and build three more 200 to 300 seat cinemas within the building. One would be built in a large space behind the main screen, and two downstairs.

Mr Sheat said the three cinemas wouldn't be "a series of boxes that look pretty much the same" but would be modelled on some of the design features of old Wellington cinemas, which have closed. Possibilities included features of the Roxy and the Vogue but depended on raising the money, he said. "We are developing a fundraising strategy. We have been working very steadily on that for some time now."

Several improvements have been made to the Embassy in the past three years, including a new projection and sound system, and restoration of the facade at the end of Courtenay Pl.

Mr Sheat said the 10-screen Reading Entertainment complex being built in Courtenay Pl wouldn't affect its plans.

"In a sense the Reading (complex) represents competition but we think we can more than equal it in the quality of the experience," he said.