History - Timeline

Timeline of the Theatre

1899 1999

YEAR Event/Activity

Council discusses need for Municipal Opera House.


Competition to design an Opera House for Wanganui.


Foundation stone laid.


Official opening of Opera House by Premier, Mr Seddon First show - Sporting Life with Bland Holt and Company.


Water main laid


Wanganui Liedertafel - 20th Grand Concert.


Handrails provided on stairs leading to Dress Circle. By-law to keep passages and ways clear during performances.


Agreement in July to cover stage entrance before next winter


Engineer told to prepare specifications and tenders invited for erecting stage entrance cover.
Proposal made to add a pit gallery to hold 500 above the dress circle by adding a third storey.
Proposal to raise 25,000 pound loan for new Opera House defeated


Larger music stands and improved lamp holders for the orchestra.
No recommendation for a new piano.
By June town clerk directed to obtain a price for renovating the piano.
Proposal to enlarge Opera House.
Combined town hall/Opera House proposed.
DC electricity available from Tramway System


The committee decided to recover 300 armrests, in Utrecht velvet.
Mr Jamieson was prepared to lease the Opera House on the council's terms but wanted four more dressing rooms behind the stage; the staircase from stage to fly floor removed to create new scene dock;  redecoration of entrances, passages and inside of house with calsomine or any other suitable water paint.
Council agrees for an extra 10/- a week from Mr Jamieson.
Work cost 71 pounds sixteen shillings.


Plimmer-Hall Dramatic Company performs and profits go to the Belgian Relief Fund.
Use for patriotic purposes begins.

1915 Staircase to dress circle treated with dark spirit stain.
1917 Engineer reports on ventilation.
1918 Council suggests Opera House could become Fire Station.
1920 Alterations to Opera House - movie theatre established.
Inauguration of Paramount Pictures.

Modification of seats with central aisle created to allow grand procession of Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII. Seats then directly behind one another.


Actress dies in backstage fire.


Wiring reconditioned.

1934 First loan paid off.
1937 Fire in sweet stall closes theatre for several months.
Reinstatement completed by Messrs Walpole & Patterson.
New Opera House estimated to cost at least 50,000 pounds.
Reinstatement (covered by insurance) costs council 400 pounds.
1938 Annexe added
1956 Custodian/manager collapses, dies
1957 Opera House Debt free.
Modern switchboard installed.
1958 Gas engine goes.
1962 Stairs carpeted.
1963 Exterior repainting tender accepted from Mr A W Gray for 1327 pounds 9 shillings.
1967 Mr Gray's attention drawn to deterioration in paintwork.
1964 Dome repainted.
1978 Annexe fire.
1986 Staff member Dave Brough died while working in the circle.
 1987 Purchase of new Steinway grand piano
1989 Council retains control of Opera House for at least 12 months more.
Friends of the Opera House steering committee established
Membership drive for Friends of the Opera House begins.
Smoke detectors installed.
Foodtown donates $10,000 for refurbishing the orchestra pit.
Girvan Corporation pledges at least $5000 through pre-Christmas competition
1990 Orchestra pit refurbished


$51,000 Lotteries Commission grant towards sprinkler system.
Monetary support also from Wanganui District Council, Trust Bank Central, William McAlpine Duncan Trust, Leedstown Trust, Shirley McDouall/Peggy Wallis School of Dance, Friends Preferential Seating Scheme.
Seating reduced from 1000 to 830 for more leg room and better views. Eight wheelchair spaces provided
1991 Exit doors installed at either side of the building replace two doors at the front of the building and make room for upgraded toilet facilities.
1992 New toilet facilities provided, including a paraplegic toilet.
Upstairs area becomes lounge, bar and new sweet stall
1992 New toilet facilities completed.
Seat refurbishment begins
1993 Stage replaced. 17 volunteers provide help to lay 3500 lineal metres of matai timber, and hammer in 15,500 nails. Old flooring reused in the foyer of the Whanganui Riverboat Restoration and Navigation Trust's Riverboat centre in Taupo Quay

Newly installed sprinklers save Opera House from arson attempt.

Computerised ticketing introduced.

1996 Historic Places Trust awards Category One grading to the Opera House
1997 Discussions to extend annexe.
Historic Places Trust agrees to 15 m by 13 m corrugated iron extension to maintain historic connections. Plans include room for set construction and catering kitchen.
Horror when Friends discover upgrading the annexe means "every aspect of the building" having to adhere to the Building Industry Act regulations 1991.
Friends' president warns that people are pulling down buildings because the cost of compliance is so high.

Annexe construction begins.
Centennial celebrations begin.
Oct. Royal charter given to the Opera House as part of the centennial celebrations. Name becomes:

Royal Wanganui Opera House.


 Annexe construction completed.

Computerised ticketing system upgraded


 New Manager's office completed


 Sound system installed


 Computerised ticketing system replaced. Ticket Sales now available online.


 Backstage gas heating installed

New Sound and Lighting consol positions built.

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