The Roxy: Week 71

There is something quite special about movie theaters in New Zealand. From the smallest towns to the capitol, people visit cinemas not only for movies but also for boutique restaurants and cafés. There is not a bendy straw or coin-gobbling video arcade in sight and if you asked for a child’s combo pack, well, there would certainly be a bit on confusion.

Barret’s favorite place to catch a movie is the Roxy. It originally opened in 1928 as a silent theater in the suburb of Miramar and operated until the mid 60s, when it was converted to a shopping court. After the business closed, it sat idle for a while until a group of cinemaphiles (including the Weta founders) bought the old building with plans of renovation.

It has been open for over a year now and on that rainy Sunday night, the illuminated entrance cast a bright welcoming glow. After purchasing our tickets we walked across the marble foyer towards the café. The counter was made from dark wood and cut clean bold lines. At the end of it, on shiny silver stands, were sugar-dusted muffins and brownies iced with rich chocolate cream. The espresso machine was steaming and the peaceful clatter of forks and knives could be heard from the restaurant’s tables.

Would you like the beverage list?” The bartender asked.

Yes, please.”

After browsing the selection we decided on a half bottle of red wine, which the bartender poured into a delicate glass carafe. Then he handed us two large wine glasses that had the kind of squeaky-clean surface you only see on dishwasher commercials. There was a fifteen minute wait before the movie began, so we made our way to the lounge upstairs. It was Barret’s favorite part of the cinema because the robotic ceiling mural (designed by a Weta artist) cleverly incorporated utilitarian elements like smoke alarms and vents into the image.

When the theater doors opened we found our seats and sat the bottle of wine on a little semicircular table at the end of the armrest. The lights dimmed and an Expedia commercial about Las Vegas began. Barret and I had seen it before so we knew when to expect our friend, Danielle Kelly, on the big screen. Right as her cameo began we glanced over at each other and gave a small toast for friends, for home, and for Wellington. And you know what- not one glass broke in the theater. How classy.

How to get to The Roxy: 5 Park Road, Miramar, Wellington

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Wellington: Week 65

It reminded me a little of San Francisco. Even the buildings along the main drag had a modest Victorian sensibility- almost as if by the time the architecture had reached New Zealand, its previous decadence had been subdued by the long trip across the ocean. The skies were grey and the rain poured down in diagonal sheets. It was tough to find parking and even tougher knowing it cost four dollars an hour.

After picking up two friends that we met in Te Puke, we drove off to the New Zealand Film Archives. Everything in the collection was from New Zealand and free to view. I felt like a feature film, so I picked the first one off the top of my head- Once Were Warriors. All of us had heard this movie mentioned quite frequently, but none of us really knew what it was about.

Whew. That’s some light material this afternoon,” the curator replied when we gave him our request.

Without giving any of the plot away: the movie opened with a dirty sepia-tinged color and, at least in my eyes, ended behind a foggy, wet window. I was crying hard and black-tinged tears clouded my vision and coursed down my face. Light material indeed.

Later on we saw Te Papa- New Zealand’s national museum. The building is extremely large and to keep from being overwhelmed, we picked just a few areas for our first visit.  Since we were on the first floor we began at the natural science wing, replete with stuffed kiwibirds and earthquake simulations. The star of the show though was the colossal squid, of which Te Papa is the only museum in the world to have a specimen. It clocked in at 13.8 feet long and had eyes the size of basketballs. The body was suspended in a long casket-like tank while other bits and pieces were located in jars nearby. One jar even contained the squid’s special tentacle hooks which can rotate 360˚. I hoped to never encounter one in the ocean, this squid looked much more sinister than the ones I battled in Korea.

In between house-hunting, we also made a stop at the Weta Cave in the suburb of Miramar. Weta is the huge film effects studio that most famously worked on the LOTR trilogy. I was more curious than enthusiastic to see the “Cave” and once we walked in my suspicions were confirmed. These people can create the most magical digital environments but they are all thumbs when it comes to real-life interior design. It looked like Grandma’s curio cabinet. I was actually surprised there weren’t doilies under the prosthetic limbs.

Before leaving Miramar, we had a few hours to kill so we stopped at La Boca Loca. It was the first time I had had such delicious and authentic Mexican food since leaving the US. The corn tortillas were made in house and the salsa was fresh and piquant. Unlike the Weta Cave, the layout was open and the design stylish. We wolfed down our food with colorful splashes of hot sauce and wiped our noses on scraps of tissue. The parking was free, the rain had finished, and we had a house to check out. I had a propitious feeling and I was excited to be in Wellington.

How to get to:

New Zealand Film Archives: 84 Taranaki Street  Te Aro 6011

Te Papa: 55 Cable Street  Te Aro, Wellington 6011

Weta Cave: 1 Weka Street  Miramar, Wellington 6022

La Boca Loca: 19 Park Road  Miramar 6022

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