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Re-opening of the Gaiety Theatre

Wairoa’s iconic Gaiety Theatre opens its doors on a new era as the ‘social heart’ of the community when it hosts the celebration of the 10th Wairoa Māori Film Festival on Saturday, May 30.

The festival marks a grand re-opening for the theatre, and is the first event in a wider strategy involving blockbuster movies, community events and film production opportunities.

Led by the theatre’s governing body, Te Mātārae o Te Wairoa Trust (Wairoa Horizon Trust) and supported by the Wairoa District Council, the revitalisation of the Gaiety will experience it’s first ‘on-the-ground’ milestone when a suite of new equipment is installed by a team from Hong Kong-based Shaw Studios led by Eric Stark, this month.

Featuring a 9.3 sound system, the technology provides a fully immersive experience that will put the Gaiety ahead of most mainstream cinemas around the country. Plans are also underway to install a much-improved digital projector.

Te Mātārae o Te Wairoa Trust Chair Bruce Kenyon said the equipment was vital for plans to restore the theatre back to its prominent position in the community.

“The Gaiety was once the social heart of Wairoa’s community. At a time when many small theatres around the country are facing closure, or have already closed, we are very fortunate to be in a position to look forward with confidence. Several organisations and private businesses have come together to make this happen and we are very excited about the opportunities that will result for our community,” he said.

Festival director Leo Koziol said it was exciting to be a part of the re-opening of such a significant theatre.

“The Wairoa Māori Film Festival has grown from strength to strength over the last ten years and a partnership with the Gaiety Theatre holds much promise and opportunity for the future,” he said.

“Seeing a state-of-the art cinema in place is a grand achievement with much promise for Wairoa.”

The Gaiety will play host to a significant portion of the festival, including a Grand Gala Evening on Saturday, May 30, with a line-up of films scheduled for the following day.

A chance to walk the red carpet, the Gala is set to be a sparkling affair with many highlights, including a keynote address from award-winning filmmaker Gaylene Preston ONZM.

Tickets are available at at a cost of $80 each, or $700 for a table of ten, including a three-course dinner and entertainment.

Sunday will feature the world premiere of ‘Umbrella Man’ – a feature film directed by Lennie Hill, of Ngapuhi descent. With themes of homelessness, poverty and the significance of whanau, this is the first feature-length film to make its debut at this festival. It is scheduled to screen at 3pm, with tickets selling for $10 each, with half of all proceeds to be donated to a local charity.

Prior to Sunday’s ‘Umbrella Man’ feature, there will be free screenings of Māori short films, some of the best new and recent whanau friendly films from the current and past Wairoa Māori Film Festivals.

Gaiety Theatre History

The Gaiety Theatre is a treasured heritage building that was once the heart of the Wairoa District’s social life, hosting cultural activities, balls and pantomimes as well as touring performances and shows. The 1931 earthquake took its toll on the building, but the rear of the theatre was quickly rebuilt and used until the doors closed in the late 1960s. For decades it lay idle and uncared for, until local couple Geoff and Ali Hole purchased it in the mid 1990s and restored it to its former glory.

With developments in digital movie technology, the Gaiety Theatre’s 35mm movie reel projection system became comparatively expensive, and the latest blockbuster movies were unable to be screened. Movie-goers chose to go further afield to see the latest movies, or view them at home, forcing the reluctant closure of the Gaiety Theatre in early 2009.

In 2014, Wairoa District Council committed to supporting the Gaiety Theatre, which is now governed by Te Mātārae o Te Wairoa (Wairoa Horizons) Trust.

Wairoa Māori Film Festival History

Wairoa Māori Film Festival was established in 2005 to support and celebrate Māori and global indigenous film-making. An annual Wairoa Māori Film Festival is held at Kahungunu Marae, Nuhaka, and from 2015 onwards also at the Gaiety Theatre & Cinema complex in Wairoa.

Festival Director Leo Koziol travels the world to curate the best international content for the Māori film festival, at the same time curating and travelling with Māori films to festivals overseas.

Leo Koziol curates the Nga Whanaunga Māori Pasifika short film programme of the New Zealand International Film Festival, which premieres each year in Auckland and Wellington. Mr. Koziol has also curated Māori short films for festivals in Hawaii, Tahiti, Finland, Germany, France, Australia, Malaysia, Fiji, Rarotonga and New York.

In 2015, the Wairoa Māori Film Festival will be establishing the Hawaiiki Hou initiative, a new collective of Maori and Polynesian film makers. This collective will have a kaupapa of support in the story development, production and distribution of indigenous stories, commencing with a "Stories of Wairoa" project in 2016.

The Wairoa Māori Film Festival has been supported and sponsored by the New Zealand Film Commission since 2005.

21 December 2017

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