by Chris Tobin
The Rocky Horror Picture Show will held at the Geraldine Cinema to raise funds for a new screen after the old one was vandalised by some of the town’s “young horrors”.
On Wednesday, December 11, at an afternoon session a group of 12 “offenders”, as picture theatre operator Patrick Walsh called them, bought tickets to watch a film, Frozen Two.
“They were right as rain until the movie started and then they started a racket. Usually kids by themselves make a noise but not as much as this group. The noise was even above the sound of the film.”
When the group, aged about 12, left the theatre, Mr Walsh discovered they had thrown sweets and a drink bottle at the screen. They had also spat on the the arm rests of seats, ground pretzels into the floor and sliced one of the seats open.
The worst damage was to the screen which Mr Walsh has since taped up as a temporary fix to ensure movies can still be screened.
A new screen was expected to cost about $9000.
“The screen came out of the old Temuka theatre which closed in 1967 so it is probably 70 to 80 years old.”
The sweets and other objects split holes in the screen while the bottle still had some contents which went through the holes, spilling over speakers behind.
Geraldine residents have expressed disgust at the group’s behaviour. A Givealittle page has been set up to raise funds for a new screen and a donation box is available at the theatre.
“The police are slowly tracking down the offenders. All have been trespassed from the theatre.
“Straight after it happened some of them came in with their parents and apologised but it’s been hard to track them down because some are away on holiday.
“A lot of the parents didn’t know the kids were here; they made up stories.
“I think kids take this place for granted and in this day and age their actions don’t seem to have the consequences.”
He said the incident was not entirely new for the town. In the late 1960s children had acted up badly as well which together with the impact of television, led the then owner, Cuth Knight, to close operations.
The 96-year-old, 400-seat theatre was later reopened. The building is owned by the Timaru District Council.
“I’ve been here five years and in that time we’ve been broken into five or six times and posters have been stolen.”
Keeping the theatre open was a challenge with half the money from each ticket sold going to film studios but Mr Walsh said he had a passion for it.
“I do it for the enjoyment of doing it and nobody else would take it on.
“I got involved in the industry when I was 14 as a projectionist in North Canterbury at the Oxford Town Hall and I used to come down here and give Barry (then owner Barry McLauchlan) a hand when I was in high school.”
Mr Walsh has worked as a projectionist in Christchurch cinemas.
“I grew up in Rangiora and when I was 21 I had the opportunity to buy the Rangiora theatre. I was the youngest cinema owner in New Zealand. I’m 32 now and nobody else as young owns a theatre in New Zealand.”
He would like to put in a mini-theatre in the Geraldine building seating 15 or so people to run alongside his current operation, screening “some off-beat movies”.
But the first objective was to get a new screen.
“We’ll just have to soldier on. When it happened you think ‘stuff them’ but after a couple of beers in the pub I calmed down. I enjoy it.”