This is the fourth in a series of vignettes by local historian Michael Fowler, detailing events and characters that have shaped the Hawke’s Bay Opera House story.

Photo: Film promotion of Sheik c 1920

One way the Hastings Borough Council thought the theatre could pay for itself was to show moving pictures, so it allowed for a projectionist box on the top floor.

Tenders were called to show the pictures as a private operator with a revenue share with the Council, and there was only one interested party.

The financial conditions of the lease proved too difficult, according to the operator, and after his appeals for a renewed agreement fell on deaf ears at the Council, he ceased showing pictures in March 1916.

Moving pictures then came under Council control, and they were keen to advertise that money spent in the theatre would reduce rates – which other local movie theatres thought was an unfair advantage.

A joint venture in 1920 with a private theatre on Heretaunga Street West, ensured there was a good supply of films to show.

This agreement remained in place for many years before the Council set up a new arrangement with another theatre in the east side of Heretaunga Street.

The last movie was shown in May 1960.