Cinema Details

TET Kings Theatre (Stratford)

Contact Details

Stratford, Taranaki

Contact Person: Helen Lindley, Manager,
Phone: 06 765 8255
Mobile: 027 2062679 (Barry)


Capacity: Up to 220 for movies; more for live events
Screen: Single screen, no 3D. DCP
Sound: Older, re-built surround sound
Seating: Older style but comfortable
Snackbar: An inviting snack bar at top of the stairs
Accessibility: A sloping entrance but stairs may be a barrier. Plans are underway to improve access.
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Geoff's Review
One of two major features on the broad main street of the busy central Taranaki town of Stratford (the other is the glockenspiel tower), the King's Theatre has a unique place in New Zealand film history. A sign above the street verandah of this elegant building proclaims it as the "Birthplace of the Talkies in New Zealand", where sound cinema began in New Zealand.
Indeed, Barry Milner (the enthusiastic manager of the King's) argues that it is the place where where film sound was first heard outside of Hollywood, with early experiments with the De Forest 'Phonofilm' system in short features beginning at the King's in 1925.
Opened in 1918, the King's will celebrate its centenary in 2018 and its is important that it reaches this milestone. But like many other older buildings in New Zealand towns, it has faced expensive structural refurbishing, and like other single screen venues, it has moved to DCP. The cinema has strong support from the local community and the Taranaki Electricity Trust, but no council funding. Nevertheless, there is a case for preserving the King's as a site of national significance, given its unique history in New Zealand movie-going.
In the meantime, it screens a mix of mainstream and art house titles for the locals, comprising 5,200 citizens in the town and 9000 in the surrounding district. In June 2017, it was screening 'Wonder Woman' and The Zookeeper's Wife'.
A special feature is the cinema's 16mm library of older features and newsreels, with screenings for visiting groups (in return for a donation). Barry has plans for this collection.
Improvements and upgrades are continuing, financed from proceeds from the rather good second-hand book shop The Kings EMPORIUM, which is situated next door. To date, it has funded lovely stained glass panes above the entrance and the reinstatement of street verandah posts.
If you passing through Stratford, stop off for an afternoon or evening screening, and browse the interesting collection of movie memorabilia in the foyer. Think about joining the Friends of the Theatre too; you will be in illustrious company for Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf) is a particular friend of the Kings.
It also features in Nick Homler's 2017 documentary 'The Reel People of New Zealand'.
June 2018 update: Barry Milner has retired as theatre manager, after many years of service, but will continue to run the fund-raising bookshop. The new theatre manager is Helen Lindley.