Nick Paris - Odeon Theatre Trust Chairman

Odeon Theatre

Listen to this story
'Wasn’t it a rollerskating rink at one stage?‘

'Yeah it was... a lot of cinemas were, the one at Brighton fell on hard times and became a rollerskating rink too. They retained the circle and for the great many parts of its days it was a rollerskating rink downstairs.  I don’t know how they got on with that. Oh, I guess it had a sloping floor so you could really get some headway down - like a jaffa - and come up the other way.'

Nick Paris


The Odeon Theatre, 1883, is the oldest purpose built, masonry theatre in New Zealand. In Christchurch only the timber building that served for three decades as the original Theatre Royal is older.

First known as the Tuam Street Hall or Theatre it was a popular venue for all types of public meetings, entertainment and exhibitions. During the 1880s and 90s the theatre functioned as a roller skating rink in conjunction with the other usual activities. Through the nineteenth century the theatre's use reflected the tastes and interests typical of the time, catering to differing levels of society. One of the most notable and nationally significant uses was for the public meetings held in 1893 when Kate Sheppard led the campaign for women's suffrage from Christchurch. By the turn of the century vaudeville was the dominating entertainment and in 1903 John Fuller and Sons Ltd, the prominent Australasian theatrical firm, began their long association with this building.

In 1930, with cinema usage introduced, the theatre was renamed St James. After a brief closure during the depression this continued along with live theatre and the St James hosted some special performers through the 1940s, including the Trapp family singers, Stanley Holloway, Lawrence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. With ownership by Kerridge-Odeon Ltd in 1960, changes were made again. The theatre was later named the Odeon.

  • Photo by Doc Ross
  • Photo by Doc Ross
  • Photo by Doc Ross
  • Photo by Doc Ross
  • Image: Christchurch City Council

Building information

Odeon Theatre 214 Tuam Street Architects: T.S Lambert. Modified in 1927 by Alfred Edgar Luttrell and Edward Sidney Date: 1883 Category 1 Historic Place