The    princess   &  Criterion                            
          movie   theatres

The Princess was located on Broadway across from the National Bank and next to the Exchange Hotel, which was on the corner of Bridge Street where it leads down to the Strand.

In 1927, Mr Angelo Cereseto built a projection box on a verandah outside the existing theatre and installed the first motor-driven projector, and later a second machine to give continuity. On July 13th, 1927, the first “talkie” was screened—Buddy Rogers in “Half Way to Heaven”, an apt title for the thousands of moviegoers who were to attend Reefton’s Theatres over the rest of the twentieth century.

In 1936, two modern projectors were installed which made a big improvement. I can remember the excitement of packed houses for the screening of the Deanna Durbin musicals as well as the wonderful Bobby Breen singing in “Rainbows on the River”, not forgetting the wonderful pair, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald.

 by Darrel  Latham
Princess Theatre

I wonder how many folk are left who can recall members of Reefton’s Chinese community who loved to sit on the ‘hen roost’ seats at the back cracking open hundreds of peanuts, leaving Bill Nicholls or ‘Buster’ McKinley to sweep up the shells!

1939 was the year Mr Cereseto sold the business to NZ Theatres Ltd and the equipment was shifted to what was formerly Dr William Conlons wonderful Criterion Theatre on Buller Road. The fist film screened was the great George Formby and his banjo in the comedy “Trouble Brewing”. I can still hear the laughter of Billy Wearne then and down through the years as he attended just about every feature change.

Along came the first wide screen or cinema scope file for the Criterion. This was “The Robe” on 29th October, 1956. Sadly, Kerridge Odeon closed the Criterion Theatre on 28th October, 1967, with the last film being “He Rides Tall”—again, a very apt title when I think of the wonderful service, enjoyment and pure pleasure Frank and Mrs Hoy gave to Reefton folk for so many years.

Soon, the Reefton Cinema Society Inc was formed and purchased the theatre from Kerridges and reopened for Christmas on 21st December 1967, with the film  “Hawaii”. Screenings came to an end on 26th April, 1973 with “The Godfather” starring the great Marlon Brando. This was when the wonderful Criterion Theatre moved from being Reefton’s entertainment centre and was sold to become Matai Industries which was to provide much needed employment for many Reefton workers.

So thanks for the memories, the laughter, the tears, the rush at half-time out to the Nibble Nook for ice creams and a bags of “chaws”. I am so glad to have lived through the years of Tom Mix, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Abbott & Costello, Laurel & Hardy, the Marx Brothers, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, Ronald Colman, Greer Garson, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Judy Garland and all the other wonderful stars.

                                                                              By Peter McLauchlan

For more than 30 years, from 1938 until his retirement in the late 1960’s, the Criterion Picture Theatre in Reefton was the happy domain of Frank Hoy. He was manager of the Criterion, which meant that he worked six days a week, starting some days before 6am, and finally finishing near midnight. He was the usher, fireman, cleaner, projectionist, maintenance man - (he built the “Nibble Nook Bar’), and publicist.

The Criterion was the second home for the Hoy family. Frank’s two sons were trained as projectionists and to this day still have a connection with the movie business. Frank’s wife and daughter ran the Nibble Nook and ticket office, with Mrs Hoy well-known for her flower arrangements.

Frank Hoy ran a no-nonsense movie house. At the Saturday matinee, girls sat on the left, boys on the right. The Nibble Nook Bar, which opened in 1954, ran strictly to the rules set down by the owners, Kerridge-Odeon, with a set number of ice-creams rolled to a carton, and orange drink to a set formula.

Frank had served as projectionist at an earlier cinema in Reefton - the Princess Theatre on Broadway, but moved when it burned down.

The Criterion had earlier been a stage theatre with four stairways. After re-modelling the building into a movie house, the stairways remained, but two ran rather eerily to a dead-end.

For many locals, a night at the Criterion was the highlight of the week. Once , a horse made its way into the foyer and right up to the ticket-box before Frank managed to persuade the animal not to venture further. All that was needed, said Frank, was for someone to report hearing a horse say... “Not a bad picture... I saw it when I was over in New Brighton.”

The Criterion foyer was built along classic Kerridge-Odeon lines, with a touch of art-deco, the walls lined with glossy photographs of stars, and a 1953 photograph of the young Queen Elizabeth in pride-of-place.

For more than 30 years, the Criterion was the domain of Frank Hoy. There were times when it must have seemed to Frank that there was more action in the foyer than on the screen!

For one couple, the Criterion was the centre of their life. They did their courting there and, once married, never missed a Saturday night movie unless the wife was giving birth to one of their many children. They would take the whole family to the movies and leave the youngest in the foyer, where Frank was known to give the baby a bottle.

Frank was once in the “Nibble-Nook Bar”’when a drunk made his way from the alley between the Criterion and the hotel next door. He faced the full-length mirrors in the foyer and invited himself back to the pub for an after-hours drink. “Three knocks on the back door and we’re in”, he told his new found friend.