Monday, 18 April 2016

Whau flicks: New Lynn’s Delta Theatre 1926-1986

When the Delta Theatre opened in July 1926 the grand opening was advertised in the Saturday edition of New Zealand Herald:


In The History of New Lynn, it was claimed, unusually for the time, that the architect of the Delta Theatre was a woman. However, contemporary newspaper reports on the ‘Leaky Picture House’ vary as to whether Miss Mitchell was the building contractor or the architect. The theatre was closed in 1928 because of subsidence and reopened in 1929, the Auckland Star reported upon its reopening on the 21 May 1929.

Ref: Delta Theatre, 1930, New Lynn Print Collection, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries.
On Saturday nights after the showing of films, there were live entertainments that included roller-skating, and dances with live bands. H F Batley recalls, in his memories of New Lynn, that a picture show at the Delta Theatre was quite full. The first half included,

“… (trailers) and “shorts” with Pathé News, Eyes and Ears of the World, showing recent world events (in black-and-white), maybe a documentary, a cartoon or two. And sometimes a sing-a-long, with a bouncing ball hopping across the words in time to the tune (p.142).” 

Ref: Delta Theatre, 1942, New Lynn Print Collection, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries.

Sunday and public holiday screenings: the exception

The Research Files at the West Auckland Research Centre, include letters to the New Lynn Borough Council asking for permission to show films at the Delta Theatre on Sundays and public holidays.  These include: a letter from the Friends of the Soviet Union in 1939, requesting permission to show a film “Modern Russia”; a letter from the Yugoslav Club in 1944 asking to show “King’s Row” in support of Yugoslav Army of Liberation; a request from the Sea Cadet Corps to present a series of talent quest concerts in 1954; and a letter dated 4 October 1949, from the New Zealand Labour Party, Auckland Labour Representation Committee asking the following:

…we would respectfully request permission to use the Delta Theatre, New Lynn, on Sunday, 16th October in the afternoon for the screening of a film entitled “Projects for Power”. The Hon. Mr. Semple will be in attendance.  No charge will be made for admittance.”


In his article “Last Shoot out at the Delta” in the Western Leader from 22 March 1986, Peter Buffet recalls some of the familiar scenes at the theatre:

 “Raucous tailenders straggling past the garish postered foyer had to be content to cheer Tom Mix from wall-side seats once inside Delta’s musty gloom.

“Up the back, sweatered girls clutched their Brylcremed youths in backseat romance while Jaffas rolled clattering down the wooden floor.


Buffet explains the role of the theatre in the local community:

“Saturday was the night you saw all the friends and neighbours at the pictures. Some had permanent bookings, taking the best seats of all.

“Half time saw the mad dash for the dairy on the corner, a quick flick through the ‘Eight O’clock’, a hurried drag on a Captain A or Riverhead Gold roll-your-own, then back inside with the Eskimo Pie for girlfriend or wife.

“The 1950s had packed houses every Saturday, presided over by Mr Popovich, dapper and forthright, wielding an unerring torch on the rowdy young.

In a 2015 oral history interview, long time West Auckland resident, Dave Pocock explains the significance of the Delta Theatre.

This short video about the picture theatres in New Lynn includes Dave Pocock talking about some of his experiences at the Delta Theatre. 



The building that replaced the Delta now houses a La Porchetta restaurant. 

Author: Carolyn Skelton, West Auckland Research Centre

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