17 The Octagon, Dunedin
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
26th November 1987
The façade of the theatre was in existence by 1904 and is probably the original façade of a large rooming and shop building of the 1880s. The shops included Mrs Harrison's popular restaurant, and the rooms were let to middle-income workers. A bricked-up fireplace in a downstairs office indicates that part of the original building is still within the structure.
The land was owned in the 1920s by Mr F G Duncan, a Dunedin solicitor, who became chairman of the Regent Theatre Company which built the theatre auditorium behind the frontage. Though built to promote the new film industry, the stage was used immediately for visiting performers such as Clara Bow and for local groups such as the Otago School of Dancing.
The building fell into disuse with the decline in film audiences in the 1960s and was taken over by the Otago Theatre Trust in 1972. The Dunedin City Corporation and Kerridge Odeon, the recent owners of the building, helped substantially, but the main funding for refurbishing the building has come from the citizen of Dunedin by private subscription. The trust has developed the stage area to improve it as a venue for live theatre and kept the building in use. They have maintained and not modified the ornate interior and maintained the large seating capacity of about 1800 seats.
This is a building which the public of Dunedin have voted with their purses and feet to retain.
One of the best interiors of this period in Otago.
The highly decorated theatre interior.
Materials of the interior are concrete, plaster and varnished wood. The wide fan-shaped proscenium allows excellent viewing from all parts of the theatre. The ornate plaster work of the ceiling and proscenium is matched by the elegance of design of the galleries and staircases.
Otago Theatre Trust
Trust records, publications by the Otago Theatre Trust.
This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.