12 May 2022

St James Theatre Wellington – opening in June

The $34 million refurbishing and strengthening of St James Theatre Wellington was due to be finished by December 2021. That date was pushed to early 2022 after the pandemic caused delays to shipments of building materials. Ongoing staff shortages due to COVID-19 further delayed the planned date from May to June 2022 but the good news is the internal fit-out of the building is now underway and the theatre is set to open in June.

Back in 2015 the St James Theatre Wellington was found to be an earthquake-prone building. The work to strengthen the theatre to a minimum 67 percent of the New Building Standard started in April 2019. Other improvements include upgrades to staging, lighting, sound and rigging systems, as well as to the fire protection, mechanical and electrical systems. Here’s the low down.

Front of House (FoH) Public Address System and Back of House (BoH) Paging System

A QSC system is being installed allowing audio to be provided throughout the venue both front of house and back of house. The FoH system will enabling different types of inputs including paging microphones, chimes, background music, localised speech reinforcement and audio. It will allow various zones and sub-zones to be linked and operated as one venue. The back of house system provides a link from the main auditorium and delivers paging to dressing rooms and technical areas. 


Digital Signage

The Venues team have worked with Samsung and installed a variety of digital screens throughout the foyers and bar areas. Live feeds from the auditorium can be shown on these screens if desired. 

Hearing Loop

An induction loop system is installed within the theatre and will now service all three levels; Stalls, Dress Circle and Gallery. Prior, the hearing loop was only available at the stalls level.        


Wi-Fi has been installed throughout the whole venue to service the venue’s clients and guests. 



NW Group is leading the design and installation of an industry-leading L-Acoustics sound system. The design takes into consideration the variety of performances that will once again take place in this historic venue, from live performances, musical theatre, onstage dinners, awards shows and everything in between.

The sound system will comprise of a flown left and right PA, including flown subwoofers, supplemented with discrete left and right ground based speakers, to ensure an even coverage throughout the Theatre. Front fill speakers and under-balcony delays are included for increased audio intelligibility throughout seated areas, especially important for theatrical and spoken word engagements. The system will be time-aligned and controlled using state of the art Dolby Lake processing with pre-sets available for various performance applications. 


The lighting design includes a range of hi-spec moving-head coloured LED fixtures to cover mainstream requirements. Onstage, this includes LED colour washes for the rear cyclorama backdrop, along with overhead programmable LED coloured moving lights used to provide a wash over the main stage area. All-important profile lighting will be available for highlights and specials, which will be bolstered by multipurpose Martin LED moving lights equipped with inbuilt gobo effects covering both the stage and audience, creating impressive atmospheres and effects.

Work in progress

Currently staff are installing new theatre rigging systems, audio-visual equipment and building services such as the air-conditioning, heating and so on. There is also significant work involved in reinstating the heritage features of the building which were carefully removed and stored during the construction process.   

Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB), a key tenant, will be refurbishing its dance studios and tenancy space once the building works are complete.   

The timing for the opening events will be confirmed towards the end of May.   


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