With retractable seating and array of new production systems, the James Hay Theatre is set to host an array of event types as it reopens as part of the overall Christchurch Town Hall rebuild and restoration project.

The theatre will reopen on Wednesday 29 May for the first time since the earthquakes with The Celtic Tenors performance.

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Chris Wallace, Vbase General Manager Projects, says the improvements made to the James Hay Theatre will make it a more suitable venue for a range of events. “We’re hoping we’ll be able to attract everything from rock bands and jazz musicians to plenary sessions and gala events.” he says.

“We’ve hosted over 45 events held in Christchurch Town Hall since it reopened in February 2019 and the next six months is filling rapidly. With the James Hay Theatre now in the mix too, we expect the growing interest in the venue to increase.” Wallace says.

Alistair Pearson, Manager Capital Delivery Major Facilities, says “After consulting with performing arts groups, it was agreed that the James Hay Theatre should be enhanced for both musical and stage performance and we’ve taken the opportunity throughout the construction process to significantly upgrade the space.”

Significant improvements have been made to the theatre including retractable seating in the stalls making the floor space available for other event types. While the fixed seating capacity remains unchanged for over 750 guests, the addition of the retractable configurations now allows for gala dinner settings, and up to 1,000 for standing concerts.

The existing fly tower has been structurally strengthened. A new fly system (theatrical rigging system) has also been installed in the fly tower, which will make the James Hay Theatre more accessible for performances where quick scenery changes are necessary.

New lighting and acoustic systems will further enhance the experience for all audiences. A total of 150 new theatre lights and a new air conditioning system have been put in. The installation of the new Constellation acoustic system utilises 31 microphones and 152 speakers throughout the space.

Pierre Germain from Meyer Sound worked with original Town Hall acoustic engineers Marshall Day to test and tune it over five days earlier this month. “The acoustic system works with the natural acoustics of the room... it just gives it a boost,” Mr Germain says.

Construction was completed in April and Vbase has been testing and commissioning the space for the past month in preparation for its reopening. Ultimately the modernisation, extra amenities and technology makes the James Hay Theatre self-contained and a venue in its own right.

The theatre retains its original name, in honour of the late philanthropist and politician Sir James Hay who was key in the promotion of a developing a Town Hall for Christchurch.

Vbase manages Christchurch’s premier venues including Christchurch Town Hall, Horncastle Arena, Hagley Oval, Air Force Museum and Christchurch Stadium. The concert was the fourth sizeable concert that Vbase has delivered at Christchurch Stadium and had just delivered Phil Collins earlier in the year, but they hope there will be more to come for Christchurch.


For further information please contact:

Chris Wallace, Vbase General Manager Projects

M +64 21 297 5247    |    E This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.