Wellington building shutdown: Cinemas at risk in earthquake

6:40 pm on 10 January 2019

Engineers who have assessed the Reading Cinemas building in Wellington say it is the cinemas themselves that are a risk in the event of a major earthquake.

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Photo: Google Maps

The cinema complex on Courtenay Place was closed on Saturday because of the earthquake risk.

Reading Cinemas' engineers met with Wellington City Council officials yesterday, and detailed what was in their draft report.

They had identified several areas on the cinema levels of the building that could perform to an "unacceptable" standard during a major earthquake.

The issues with the third floor were not a result of the 7.8 magnitude Kaikōura earthquake in 2016.

Phil Becker, the council's business engagement manager, said the engineers were now conducting further investigations to better understand the weaknesses in the building.

He said Reading Cinemas had kept the council informed about their investigation, and said there was no increased risk to neighbouring properties as a result of the findings.

"We are very comfortable with Reading's responsible approach to this situation," Mr Becker said.

"The company has kept the City Council informed about its ongoing engineering investigations - and we appreciate the company and its consultants are working as quickly as possible to both get a better understanding of and reach important decisions relating to the building."

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said he was pleased that the company prioritised people's safety and closed the building.

"I am happy there are no risks to pedestrians on Courtenay Place," Mr Lester said.

"Hopefully a satisfactory engineering solution can be found quickly and the cinema can be reopened."

Reading International, which runs cinema chains in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, could not be reached for comment.

The company had been looking to refurbish the site over coming years, and staff contacted in the United States said those plans were still in place.

Reading Cinemas will continue to provide information on the closure to tenants and their own staff.

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