Lights, camera, popcorn, please! The best place to watch a film in Auckland is not your couch. It is time to get out of the house!
The movie theatre scene in Auckland ranges from independent non-profits and IMAX screens to landmark nostalgic attractions and modern multiplexes in shopping complexes, which means every week you are blessed with a diverse assemblage of possibilities for soaking up the pleasures of the silver screen.
The hardest part is picking a good movie theatre, so we’ve rounded up the notable cinemas in Auckland to best suit your movie night out.
44 Lorne Street, Auckland CBD
Hidden in a basement on Lorne Street, Academy Cinemas offers all kinds of films on its twin-screen cinema in the heart of Auckland City. Its movies cater to arthouse, thriller, cult, and independent audiences, so be prepared to geek out and freak out.
Every orifice of the Academy exudes film lover, from the vintage film memorabilia in the foyer to the 16 seat boutique theatre and mixed audience who are all united by an enthusiasm for film. There is also a licensed bar offering bottled craft beer, New Zealand wines, specialty cocktails and trained baristas. The hand-rolled, chocolate-dipped Kapiti ice cream waffle cones are to die for…
What we loved most: $5 Wednesday’s, when every film is $5.
85 Tamaki Drive, Mission Bay
A great theatre for those in the Eastern Bays, the Berkeley Mission Bay cinema has four screens, a licensed bar and is situated in a classic Art Deco style building.
It usually plays the latest and greatest and is lucky enough to be steps away from Mission Bay waterfront if you want to hang out and talk after the film, or grab a meal. The cinema might be owned by Hoyts, but offers discounted $10.90 tickets Sunday to Wednesday.
What we loved most: Heading here for date night, combined with a meal or beer at Good George and a walk along the beach.
122 Queen Street, Northcote
Located just across the bridge in Northcote, this heritage arthouse theatre with four screens is beloved by locals and well run by the cinematic duo who own it.
Lean back in their comfy seats and take in cinematic art outside of the mainstream blockbusters, with regular special film events and festivals, including the annual Cinema Italiano Festival and Met Opera. A warm, devoted environment of architectural design and arthouse delights. The excellent restaurant Engine Room is also conveniently located next door.
What we loved most: The community feel and unique inner harbour location.
Metro Building, 291/297 Queen Street, Auckland CBD
We are normally no the biggest fans of movie theatre gimmicks like 3D glasses, giant screens, 4D “sensory experiences,” and gourmet food and drink service. They simply are not normally worth the added ticket prices for us, and would generally prefer a small boutique theatre with character and charm.
However, there are just some times when a blockbuster film visual demands need a specific screen to be fully realised — and for that, there is also the IMAX Theatre on Queen St, New Zealand’s biggest screen.
The ultimate in immersive movie-going experiences, IMAX pushes boundaries with precision laser technology, the sharpest, brightest and clearest digital images, stunning vivid colour, with state-of-the-art multi-speaker surround sound.
By no means boutique or arthouse, but this is undeniably one of the best places to watch certain films in Auckland
What we loved most: The new IMAX with Laser technology is arguably the gold standard when it comes to watching movies.
427 Manukau Road, Epsom
This Epsom classic cannot go unlooked – especially with their new bar and modernisation.
The Lido is the perfect place to go for a new release you just missed at the big chain theatres, with a much quieter, relaxed atmosphere. Kick back and enjoy the show with a glass of red wine and a maple walnut ice cream. Tucked away next to the popular Japanese Sake Bar Nippon, the boutique two-screens at Lido always ensure a memorable and intimate viewing experience.
What we loved most: The small details such as the retro-style decor and fresh-cut flowers in the women’s bathroom.
2 Matakana Valley Road, Matakana
Technically still in Auckland, this charming three-theatre boutique cinema complex settled in the heart of Matakana Village is only 50 minutes north of the Auckland. There is a nice selection of movies including modern blockbusters and arthouse, wide luxurious seating with footrest recliners to tempt you into the front row, and Kapiti ice cream in waffle cones. Yum!
Their main theatre has a gorgeous chandelier hanging above it all and made the entire experience very ‘Great Gatsby’. Welcoming, local and memorable, the Matakana Cinemas makes a great addition to a day trip north of Auckland and is a mainstay for those with holiday homes in the area.
What we loved most:The cozy luxury at a bargain price, and that you can grab a drink from The Vintry next door to take in.
4/2 Fencible Drive, Howick
Yes, it’s a little outside the city – but definitely worth the drive! This heritage theatre has a history dating back to the 1930s with renovated seating and a new location in Howick. Monterey Cinemas is a great-value-for-money boutique cinema showing both the latest Blockbuster releases and more alternative content such as Met Operas, National Theatres and Live Concerts.
It’s a fun vintage spot to stop in a catch a movie for those out East or anyone looking to soak up some Auckland cinema history. It is owned by the Kelly Rogers and David Ross, who started, and then sold, Rialto Cinemas. They also own Bridgeway Cinema in Northcote and have recently rebranded the Berkeley Cinema in Takapuna as Monterey.
What we loved most: The upmarket location right in the heart of Howick.
LynnMall, New Lynn
Hardcore cinephiles will assuredly question our choice to include a franchise cinema as one of Auckland’s best cinemas but (much like IMAX), hear us out. The first location of this national chain in Auckland, Reading Lynnmall is seeking to break the Hoyts-Event duopoly and gets our support for offering a modern mainstream multiplex along with good value for money.
They offered $10 normal tickets every day of the week after they first launched in 2015, but that price seems to have slowly nudged up since. Reading Cinemas Lynnmall is still the more affordable of the three main chains if you want a big, modern screen without breaking the bank. Their Titan XC 20m-wide screen and premium dine-in option.
What we loved most: The clean, modern, new theatres and competitive prices.
167/169 Broadway, Newmarket
There’s a bar at this theatre, and you can drink in your seat. We mean, they also play amazing documentary films year-round, host special showcases and talks as well as host small film festivals, but ultimately, the Rialto Cinema in Newmarket is a great place to get a glass of wine or a cocktail before being visually educated.
There are also great dining options nearby, including our favourite, the Heizo Tepenyaki restaurant across the road. With seven screens showing some blockbuster films they also have a range of art and film festival movies, though the movie theatre itself could do with a refresh.
What we loved most: The wide selection of drinks and good coffee.
228 Orakei Road, Orakei
A new modern and luxurious cinema experience opened in the Orakei Bay Village. Sicker than your average cinema, Silky Otter channels the mainstream movies with luxury recliners, exquisite food and drink, state of the art laser projection and full 7.1 surround sound, yet is a very boutique experience.
Found hidden behind Farro Fresh, it is anything but ordinary. They scoop delicious Duck Island premium gourmet ice-cream, our favourite ice cream in Auckland, have signature hotdog sliders and a delicious range of freshly baked cabinet food, sweet or salty.
What we loved most: Silky Otter Cinemas provide a completely ad-free preshow – see the latest trailers, then straight into your movie. Because if there is one thing we hate, it is paying to be advertised to!
610 Dominion Road, Balmoral
One hundred years old and still a going strong, the Capitol Cinema is a great place to see a movie when you’re out for dinner on Dominion Road in Balmoral. Protected by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust with Grade 1 classification, the Capitol Cinema experience is a step back in time with its vintage fixtures and classic red seats.
If you want a dose of nostalgia with the very best in new release arthouse films concurrently with upmarket commercial releases, special film events and festivals, this is the place. There is also a good wine selection, excellent ice cream, delicious baking and friendly staff — not to mention a dozen wondrous Asian restaurants for a pre-or-post film bite nearby.
What we loved most: The nostalgia.
20 Saint Georges Road, Avondale
For movie lovers who don’t care for traditional Hollywood blockbusters, there’s no better theatre than The Hollywood in Avondale (the irony isn’t lost on us).
New Zealand’s longest-running cinema palace, the Hollywood host hosts classic, cult, revival and marathon screenings as well as selected concerts and events in its neoclassical building dating back to 1915. It’s gorgeous, quirky and a hidden gem of West Auckland with films and events you won’t find anywhere else.
Devoted movie lovers should look out for the Incredibly Strange Film Festival and the 24 Hour Movie Marathon, which is twenty-four hours of the wildest cinema known to humankind. You’ll see sneak premieres – old faves – and some things from their vault that should have never seen the light of day.
What we loved most: The annual 24 Hour Movie Marathon, which has now been running for over 20 years now.
48 Victoria Road, Devonport
This Devonport neighbourhood favourite has a rich and proud history, dating back to 1912, the era of silent film, and claims to best the oldest theatre in the southern hemisphere! After extensive renovations and fund-raising efforts (which are still ongoing), this beloved local venue and art deco treasure lives to die another day.
The revamped theatre includes an attached cafe and bar, the Vic Lounge Bar, with an impressive craft beer selection, an extensive wine list and fresh gelato—all of which can come with you into your movie. A community-focused spot, the Vic offers everything from the latest blockbusters and arthouse films to live musicians and family events.
What we loved most: The Fullers Ferry & Movie Deal is $19 for an adult and $12 per child for which you get a return trip on the ferry plus a movie ticket.
127-129 Ocean View Road, Oneroa
We could never forget about our favourite island in the Hauraki Gulf, and thankfully movie buffs are now able to catch a flick without heading into the city.
A quirky 50 seat venue filled with comfy sofas donated by the community, the Waiheke Island Community Cinema is a charitable trust governed powered by mostly volunteers, screening more than twenty screenings each week. They show a bit of everything from arthouse and documentaries, to the Met Opéra and recent blockbusters.
What we loved most: Short docos about locally made community stories are screened before feature films.
And there you have it. Whether you prefer classic films, indie gems or the latest blockbusters, you’ll find them at Auckland’s best movie theatres.
Our ‘top, top picks’? That would have to be Silky Otter Cinemas for a modern-luxury suburban cinema experience, the Academy Cinemas for cheap films on Wednesdays and the Capitol Cinema for its pure nostalgia.