March 25, 2015 Loading Docs

Crystal Palace to get Three Minutes of Fame

Stuff+logoThe rundown yet beloved Crystal Palace Theatre will take centre-stage in a new documentary.

And the filmmakers hope their work will inspire someone to restore the 86-year-old cinema in the Auckland suburb of Mt Eden.

The theatre, decorated with large 1920s-era shells and faded gold trim, has been mostly closed since 1995, apart from the odd monthly film screening. 

A three-minute documentary called Please Open will be co-directed by Aucklanders Karl Sheridan, Robin Gee and produced by Taylor MacGregor.

They’re fundraising online to cover production of the film, which starts next month.

The theatre was sold only once, in 1977, and has been owned by the same family since then.

Gee says the documentary could kickstart its revival.

“The family is supportive of the theatre and is looking for a champion – someone in the community maybe – to come lead the way,” he said.

The Crystal Palace became the home of surf movies in the 1970s and was later popular for screening Hindi films.

The documentary is a project close to home for both Gee and MacGregor.

MacGregor’s grandmother worked as an usher at the theatre.

His uncle, former Auckland Regional Council chairman Phil Warren, ran weekly dance events downstairs from 1958 to 1973.

“Robin’s been interviewing these old guys who come in and tell us about going down the stairs, fighting through all the smoke, trying to find their favourite girls to dance with through the haze.

“There have been some pretty amazing stories from down there. It didn’t occur to me until halfway through researching the film that Uncle Phil was down here, so that was really nice.”

Gee grew up watching films at the Palace, including a live recording of a Rolling Stones gig around 1980.

“They had huge speaker stacks in each of the corners and they had painted the Rolling Stones mouth and lips on them . . . it was so loud, the hum was deafening,” he said. “I can remember coming here in winter and huddling around these gas heaters – hilarious.

“I don’t remember what the double feature was but it was so cold we could see our breath.”

Please Open was chosen as part of the NZ On Air-backed Loading Docs series, which matches the crew’s fundraising efforts dollar for dollar.

Nine other documentaries are being made around New Zealand as part of the series which this year follows the theme of connections.

All 10 films will be free to watch and Sheridan and Gee are hopeful they’ll be able to screen the documentary at the Crystal Palace in August.

The crew is also creating an archive which the public is welcome to contribute to.

Donations to the film’s production can be made at by searching The Crystal Palace.

Email to take part in interviews for the archive project.

Go to their facebook page to follow the documentary’s progress.

via Stuff