Harbour Light Theatre

Also known as: Harbour Light Cinema

Location: 24 London Street, Lyttelton

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Current Status: Demolished post-earthquake, currently a bare site with a memorial

Active as a live music venue: 1916 – 2010

Bar Manager: –

Bookings:

Website:

Capacity: 300 (circa 2010)

Fantastic old Theatre in the heart of Lyttelton’s London Street that stood for 83 years prior to the Earthquakes of 2011.

The Harbour Light Theatre was thought to have been designed by J.S. and M. J. Guthrie and purpose-built as a picture house and theatre for the Lyttelton Picture Company. It could seat 550 people in both stalls and circle. The front of the building was two storeys high, with a mezzanine floor, and two decorative brick towers topped with spherical domes on either side. The entry was framed by large Tuscan columns, with quoin stones on the corners of the building. The material of the building was mostly brick with a stucco finish on the facade painted white in the “California style”. The entrance featured an art nouveau style etching of a pattern above the verandah roof.

At first the theatre management had concentrated on screening of films three times during the week. Then in 1920 they decided to extend the back of the theatre building and erect a stage with up-to-date fittings and lighting effects. The first performance on the new stage in December 1920 was delivered by the first “big-town” company to appear in Lyttelton, and apparently lived up to all expectations.

–  Jae Renaut’s Lyttelton

Harbour Light Cinema circa 1980 from Jae Renaut’s Lyttelton

Over the course of it’s long history the building had been used as a theater, a cinema, a social gathering hot-spot, a nightclub and as a particularly special concert and performance venue.

Having the stage meant that the Harbour Light could be used for fund-raising and benefit concerts, public talks and other social occasions, not just to screen films. Attractions presented on the new stage included illusionists and hypnotists, even vaudeville from the “Jolly John Larkin Happy Folks Company”.

– Jae Renaut’s Lyttelton

From 1992 onward groups would utilize the large stage and ample setting for music performances, prior to the 2010/2011 Earthquakes which ravaged Lyttelton, I saw enchanting performances from Pine and The Renderers in this wonderful old theater – it was a sad day when it was finally pulled down.

History

  • 1917: 24 London street is opened as a movie cinema and theater
  • 1983: Peter Harris purchases the dilapidated venue, building a squash court in the rear of the venue.
  • 1988: New owner Tom Jones converts the building into a nightclub and performance theater, becoming a licensed entertainment venue by 1992.
  • 2010: Damaged and eventually demolished in the Canterbury Earthquakes

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