News | 1 July 2022

Friday Five: Things you didn't know about St James Theatre

To celebrate the long-awaited reopening of the St James, here’s five things you may not know about the iconic theatre.

The ornate boxes and curtains at St James Theatre.

1. The theatre is over 100-years-old  

St James Theatre opened on Boxing Day in 1912, and the process from design to debut took architect Henry Eli White less than a year! Explore the theatre’s 110-year history

2. St James wasn’t the theatre’s original name 

The St James was originally called ‘His Majesty’s Theatre’, though it was also known as ‘Fullers’ – as it was built for the theatre company Messrs John Fuller and Sons. It was not renamed St James until the 1930s, and was briefly known as the Westpac St. James Theatre, when it was owned by the bank from 1997 to 2007. 

Archived sketch of the St James.
Design plans for ‘His Majesty’s Theatre Wellington’, later renamed the St James. Wellington City Archives, 00053:9229.

3. The St James has a history of haunts 

The theatre is rumoured to be haunted by a number of ghosts, with the most well-known being Yuri, a Russian performer who fell to his death from theatre’s files. Read more about the St James spirits, if you dare! 

4. The St James is the official home of the Royal New Zealand Ballet 

In 1998, the Council gifted the St James as the home space for the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB). Since then, the RNZB has premiered many spectacular performances at the St James and are looking forward to their grand return to the theatre’s refurbished stage.

The ground level seats and ornate boxes at St James Theatre.
St James Theatre in 2022 just before the reopening.

5. Wellington City Council purchased St James in 1993 

Wellington City Council has been the proud owner of the St James since 1993, after a passionate public campaign called for the theatre to be saved from demolition. Since then, the Council has committed to keeping the theatre great, investing $18.5 million to restore the building in the 90s, and embarking on a mission to refurbish and restrengthen the theatre in 2019.  

Watch out each Friday for a fun list of five great activities to do, places to explore, or things to discover in our awesome city.