The Best Alternative Movie Theatres In Auckland

By Lisa Fromont
26th May 2017

Ya know, going to the movies used to be a seriously classy event. Moviegoers in dazzling outfits were escorted into the theatre by a very suave usher and his torch (not to be confused with the Usher who birthed the Biebs), popcorn used to be served hot, fresh and with real butter, and the theatre itself would be eccentric, glamourous, and architecturally flawless (not floorless. That would, in fact, be an architectural flaw). So, what happened society?! Do we not love ourselves enough to know we deserve more than sticky floors and high-grossing Hollywood blockbusters? We ought to know better than to believe our only option for a movie date is the cinema in your nearest mall.

In historical buildings, underground and even bang-smack in the middle of town, Auckland is home to cinemas that will make you fall in love with the movies all over again. Pop your corn, The Urban List Auckland presents: Auckland’s Best Alternative Cinemas.

Academy Cinemas

Auckland CBD

Follow the sound of the Lorne Street piano and you’ll find Academy Cinemas nestled away beneath the Auckland Public Library. This underground film-junkie oasis has a boutique 16-seat cinema (which is all kinds of intimate) and their full-sized venue sees to it that no lover of film misses out on Academy’s $5 Wednesdays. FYI, if you sneak off from the library to catch a flick, they’ve also got craft beer, wine, and specialty cocktails—we gotchu.

Rialto Cinemas


The largest arthouse cinema in Auckland boasts seven large cinemas and seating so luxurious you’ll feel as pampered as one of Queen Liz’s corgis. Rialto Cinemas is a film junkie’s dream, showcasing diverse productions and hosting special events on the reg. Not to be missed are the Films for Foodies and Filminista events—best accompanied with Fries Three Ways, of course.

Lido Cinema


The cinema experience was always meant to be a “pinky out” occasion. When was the last time you sat back in a la-z-boy type seat sipping away on some vino while an expertly selected flick played away before you? Epsom’s Lido Cinema can give you that experience tonight, honey. Each theatre has enough character that they’ll soon feel like old friends, but book a seat in their downstairs theatre for a real treat (nothing weird, it’s just that the seats are ah-mazing).

The Bridgeway


If you wanna know what it takes to be the best cinema in the whole damn country, book a seat and let The Bridgeway knock your socks off. This Northcote theatre showcases only the very best arthouse films, big ol’ blockbusters and everything in between in a jaw-dropping architectural setting. Honestly, The Bridgeway is so classy that if you wanted to wear a faux fur coat to your movie we wouldn’t blame you, just make sure your ticket isn’t for 101 Dalmatians.

Capitol Cinema


When you find yourself in that classic millennial crisis ‘to get dressed and go to the movies, or to stay in bed and Netflix?’ Capitol Cinema will be the turning point in your life—finally, the former is the choice and that choice can be made in confidence. This cosy old-school cinema is actually better than pyjamas, dare we say it. We recommend grabbing a bottle of wine from their bar to “share” during your movie, accompanied by some gourmet ice cream, of course.

Monterey Cinemas


Howick’s historical Monterey Cinemas has been around since 1929 (if you were around back then, you might remember it as La Scala Theatre, but you probably weren’t, so don’t fret). The story of Monterey is so steeped in nail-biting drama, it should probably be made into a film and screened right there in that iconic theatre. The original building had a wee bit of fire damage, but you can catch all the stars on screen at their new location in the heart of Howick. Who are we kidding? Monterey is the heart of Howick.

The Vic  


The Vic cinema goes waaay back. It’s the oldest purpose-built cinema still operating in the Southern Hemisphere—we’re talking more than a hundred years old—and its earlier films were of the silent variety. Today however, the theatre is decked out with a cranking sound system and you can catch everything from immersive and raunchy cult-classics to the latest superhero epic. What’s more, the North Shore community has practically stood in front of bulldozers for this iconic cinema, so stick it to the man and book a seat.

Matakana Cinemas


Can we just appreciate Matakana for a moment? If the markets, scenery, bars, eateries and locals weren’t already putting this northern town in the most special place in the hearts of every Aucklander, then their cinema just might. Although a newbie, Matakana Cinemas has found the sweet spot between modern and boutique. The decor is dazzling, the seats feel like puppy hugs, and if you go in on a colder night, the Vintry might even have some comforting mulled wine for you.

Waiheke Island Community Cinema

Waiheke Island

Auckland is a magical place, where else can you live on an island with a local movie theatre? (Don’t answer that, we didn’t go that far in the way of research). The Waiheke Island Community Cinema was conceived by the islanders, who—even though they live in literally the greatest place in the whole world—thought something was missing. The community of film-lovers brought Waiheke Island’s cinema to life, even donating their own furniture to make sure every seat was the best seat in the house. For a touch of sweetness, before your much-anticipated feature film begins, the theatre treats you to short documentaries, each one made by local film-makers, and each one telling stories of the community.

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Image Credit: The Vic


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