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A tribute to the now redundant workers of Reading Cinema, Wellington

The news that Reading Cinema’s wonderful cinema staff are being made redundant was a shock given Reading Cinemas had just said the complex would reopen. Emily Writes salutes the workers.

This piece began as a tribute to my favourite cinema complex, and then the news broke that all staff there would be made redundant. Like so many cinema-goers who are regulars at Reading Courtenay, I’m absolutely gutted for the passionate staff who worked there.

Staff were told on Thursday, and on Friday when I was assured by  Reading spokesperson the cinema would reopen, no mention was made of workers being made redundant.

Hannah Shelton Agar, Unite Union’s cinema organiser, told the NZ Herald, that an estimated about 20-25 staff worked at the cinema and said they were told it would not be closing.

The question now is: Will the cinema do the right thing by staff and rehire them when the cinema complex reopens?

If you’re not from Wellington you may not know that Reading  closed on 5 January, when a draft report from engineers showed potential earthquake risks. The Reading car park was demolished in 2017, after the 7.8 magnitude Kaikōura earthquake in 2016, but apparently the risks aren’t from that earthquake.

Wellington City Council Business Engagement Manager Phil Becker said that, along with Reading, they’re waiting for engineers to produce their findings. “This will then inform Reading’s decisions about the building”. He explained that Reading don’t have to share this with the Council until it becomes a regulatory matter so we may not have a public update from the Wellington City Council anytime soon, and that’s beyond their control.

Reading Complex spokesperson Bronwyn Millar said the cinema would reopen. She said Reading have had a preliminary report and it requires ongoing investigation. “We’re not 100% sure how long that’s going to take so we don’t known when the cinema will be reopening we know it will reopen but we don’t know when.”

Over the last seven weeks Wellingtonians have been seeing films at suburban cinemas – Empire in Island Bay, Penthouse in Brooklyn, and The Roxy in Miramar are all great places. But none of them will ever match my love of the Reading Cinema complex and my appreciation for their awesome staff.

They had popcorn which is rare for cinemas – many are snobby now and won’t allow you to have any. They had wine that doesn’t cost an entire bottle for one glass. And you could get lazyboy chair seats for only $15 on a Tuesday. If you were in those seats they’d deliver you wine or ice cream or pizza halfway through the film! Even if you were broke, you could occasionally live like a queen at Reading for cheaper than a standard seat at a local cinema. They also played the movies I like. Not the weird French stuff – good dumb shit like Aquaman.

Reading Cinema staff always made you feel like you were having a nice night out.

I remember when it first opened and people hated it. People still hate it. That just made me love it more. It seemed to make cinema going more accessible with its $10 tickets and deals.

I loved those fancy $15 seats. At the end of my pregnancies I’d be in those seats every Tuesday and sometimes Saturdays too. I had labour pains during Trainwreck in those seats. I awkwardly breastfed my baby watching 50 Shades of Grey in those seats. After my kids were born I drank wine out of a wine bag in those seats (I mean I didn’t). I saw my favourite films there with all of my girlfriends – Magic Mike XXL, Tarzan, anything with Dwayne The Rock Johnson in it. We took up the whole back row. It felt like being a teenager again.

In 2010, my husband and I chucked a sickie and went to a screening of The Big Four: Live from Sofia, Bulgaria – Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth. We snuck in a bottle of bourbon and I fell asleep and woke up and it was still going. When the concert was finally finished, hundreds of bogans staggered out of the cinema complex into the harsh afternoon delight in search of Big Macs.

I once asked a young couple behind me to stop scratching around while I was watching The Lovely Bones only to find her face was buried in his lap. I mean, I had to go through the ordeal of seeing The Lovely Bones and then also listen to a half-hearted BJ.

While pregnant with my second I fell asleep watching Guardians of the Galaxy and when I woke up Guardians of the Galaxy was still on so I kept watching and only found out after I’d left that I’d slept through a whole session and a new session had started without anyone noticing I was asleep in the corner.

My kids watched their first films at Reading – Kung Fu Panda and some other iteration of Kung Fu Panda and then somehow a third Kung Fu Panda.

My point is – I have great memories there.

With ten cinemas and fancy seats and pizza that was delivered to you (I really can’t emphasise enough that they had servers), it was the best. It also had what I think is possibly the only loyalty programme of a cinema in Wellington. Because I see movies so often I usually got free tickets or free choc-tops.

And it’s gone. And we’ve been living without it.

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But to be honest, without those great workers, those memories don’t mean much.

I hope it reopens soon – but I won’t be going again unless I know those workers have been looked after and offered their jobs back.

What makes a great cinema isn’t just pizza and fancy seats. It’s the people. And Reading had some of the best.


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