Rialto Theatre

Location: The Rialto Theatre building was located at 45 Charles Street, Kaiapoi

The Rialto Movie Theatre was built in 1935 for H Owen Hills. The clean lines and geometric designs on the outside of the building are typical of the Art Deco style. Colin Lamb, the Architect, had only recently returned to New Zealand from studying in England and America.

“While abroad he had many opportunities to examine the most modern theatres and the principles of their construction” [Press 2 August 1935, p. 8]. The reinforced concrete construction complied with new legislation following on from the 1931 Napier earthquake.

The theatre continued in Mr Hill’s ownership until 1968 when it was purchased by the Kaiapoi Community Centre Incorporated Society for use as a community centre. A meeting room was added to the rear for use by community groups.

In 1995 the theatre, then owned by the Waimakariri District Council, faced demolition. A developer was interested in the site. At that time, it was noted that the building was one of very few Art Deco commercial buildings left in the South Island.

The building was saved when the New Life Church bought the complex in February 1997. The name was subsequently changed to the Riverside Christian Fellowship Church.

The Rialto Theatre building was given Landmarks status at a ceremony held on 30 May 2009. It suffered damage in the September 2010 earthquake, and further damage in the February 2011 earthquake, and was subsequently demolished in November 2011.

  • Rialto theatre - then
  • Rialto Theatre - before demolition
  • Rialto Theatre - plaque