Courtenay Place is well known both domestically and internationally as a destination for fashion, art and general tourism to New Zealand. It contains offices, accommodation, tourist shopping, entertainment, food, art and buskers offering many genres of free performance. Pedestrian traffic is substantial around the clock.
Every two years Courtenay Place is home to many of the New Zealand International Arts Festival events. The richness of Courtenay Place culture inspires many artists, including photographers, professional and amateur alike.
BATS Theatre is New Zealand's leading venue for the development of new theatre practitioners and plays.
Embassy Theatre The Lord of the Rings movie Return of the King had its world premiere at the Embassy Theatre at the head of Courtenay Place. The movies The Two Towers and The Fellowship Of The Ring both had their Australasian premiere at the Embassy (Event Slide Shows). Both events were broadcast live to the world for many hours, involving the movement of record amounts of data by City Link.
The theatre is on the Wellington City Council's heritage list in the District Plan. The New Zealand Historic Places Trust has recognised its heritage values with Category One registration, indicating a place of 'special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value'.
It was originally known as the 'De Luxe' and was built in 1924. Designed by Llewellyn Williams and constructed of reinforced concrete, it included classical external and internal architectural details. The name changed to the Embassy in 1945. A long list of theatre identities has been associated with the theatre, including William Kemball, who formed the De Luxe Theatre Company in 1923, and Sir Robert Kerridge. Kerry Robins, leaseholder of the Paramount Theatre in Wellington, took over the lease of the Embassy in 1996. It was purchased by the Embassy Theatre Trust in 1997 with financial underwriting of the refurbishment programme by Wellington City Council. Ownership was transferred to the WCC under the terms of the agreement. Embassy Theatre Trust subsidiary Company Financial report: Audit report In October 2005 Wellington film exhibitor Kerry Robins sold the operational management of the Embassy to Village SkyCity Cinemas.
Paramount Theatre, 25 Courtenay Place
The Paramount is the oldest surviving cinema in Wellington, still with its original name. Originally a part of Te Aro beach, in August 1916 the location of the Paramount was purchased by John James Williamson. He arranged for architect James Bennie to design a picture house.
Reading Cinema Complex Reading Cinema’s $23m complex contains shops, restaurants and a ten-screen multiplex cinema. The 8,000 m² development links Courtenay Place with the waterfront and was designed to complement the existing character of the strip. This project won the 2003 Property Council NZ Entertainment Excellence Award. The site was originally bulldozed in the mid-1980s by Chase Corporation for an unspecified development, but after the company fell victim to the 1987 sharemarket crash, the site remained derelict for years until it was purchased by Reading Cinemas.
The Film Archive (Te Anakura Whitiahua) is on the corner of Ghuznee St and Taranaki St, a block from Courtenay Place.
Westpac St James Theatre, 83 Courtenay Place
Formerly His Majesty's, the St James was designed for John Fuller and Sons Ltd by Mr Henry Eli White Architect, structural engineer and contractor. It was the first steel-framed concrete-coated proscenium-arched theatre in the Southern Hemisphere. The steel frame allowed for an unsupported 80 ft (25 m) span roof structure and also provided good resistance to earthquake damage.
The British and Irish Lions Tour, 2005 Wellington mayor, Kerry Prendergast, said "It’s going to be the biggest celebration of rugby and fun the Capital has ever seen. It’s a huge logistical exercise and Council staff are working around the clock to ensure readiness. This will turn Courtenay Place into a 24 hour entertainment zone – the Council is organising live music throughout the day to help people get into the party mood. The closure for the test match is necessary because of the sheer numbers of people expected in the city for the games. We’re planning for 65,000, including locals, in the central city for the test match on Saturday 2 July."