This is one city where you won't run out of things to do after dark. Start by checking the current issues of Capital Times and What's On, both free and available at visitor centers and many cafes.
The Performing Arts
Wellington is home to the largest performing-arts festival in the country; it is also home to the National Orchestra and Opera, the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and four thriving professional theater companies. In addition, you’ll find the National Dance and Drama Centre, the New Zealand School of Dance, and the New Zealand Drama School, all based in the capital.
The rejuvenated Westpac St. James Theatre, 77-87 Courtenay Place (tel. 04/802-4060; www.stjames.co.nz), opened its doors in 1998 after a NZ$21-million refurbishment project; this fine Edwardian venue now combines a preserved heritage theater with state-of-the-art technology. Apart from staging top-quality musical shows, it is also now the permanent home of the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company.
The city has a healthy professional theater scene. The Downstage Theatre, in Hannah Playhouse, Courtenay Place, corner of Cambridge Terrace (tel. 04/801-6946; www.downstage.co.nz), presents first-rate theater in an exciting, award-winning structure. Downstage’s year-round season presents its own productions and the best touring shows, including classics, contemporary drama, comedy, and dance, with an emphasis on quality New Zealand works. Tickets are NZ$40 to NZ$45 for most shows.
Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St. (tel. 04/801-7992; www.circa.co.nz), sits grandly beside Te Papa. It produces quality and generally innovative productions. You can enjoy a preshow meal at its licensed cafe. Tickets are NZ$46 for adults and NZ$25 for under 25s. Bats Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace (tel. 04/801-4176; www.bats.co.nz), is seen as the country’s top developmental theater, presenting new and experimental plays and dance at great prices (NZ$12-NZ$20). Embassy Theatre, 10 Kent Terrace (tel. 04/384-7657; www.deluxe.co.nz), was refurbished for the world premiere of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The combination of sumptuous 1920s decor with a giant screen and state-of-the-art digital sound, not to mention its cafe and bar, makes it well worth a visit. There are summer screenings of The Lord of the Rings every Sunday afternoon.
A Night at the Movies
All Wellington cinemas offer discounted tickets for daytime and Tuesday-night screenings. Students and seniors also get a discount. Look in the newspapers for schedules. Try the Embassy Theatre, 10 Kent Terrace (tel. 04/384-7657), with a giant screen and a new sound system; Hoyts Cinemas, which has two multiscreen complexes in Manners Mall and Manners Street; or Rialto Cinemas, Cable Street and Jervois Quay (tel. 04/385-1864), a three-theater complex. Penthouse Cinema & Café, 205 Ohiro Rd., Brooklyn (tel. 04/384-3157), is the city’s only suburban theater and draws a loyal local crowd.