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Lord of the flicks: New Zealand home with an old-time cinema in the shed

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Movie buff owners decision to sell up brings to light one of Wellingtons best kept secrets: a fully fledged picture theatre where he lovingly screens the classics

A humble Wellington home unchanged for four decades hides a secret in its backyard: a 38-seat cinema that even some of the capitals keenest movie buffs will never have heard of until now.

The Timecinema (housed in a large garden shed) has been a decades-long hobby for one resident of New Zealand suburbia, screening classic and nostalgic films, in particular British and American comedies from the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

Furnishing it with donations from friends and choice finds in local thrift shops, John Bell, 74, operates the projector and talks too much with visitors, while his wife Margaret serves food and drinks.

Now the couple are looking for someone to carry on their legacy.

I have always loved the movies ability to bring people together, as a social tool, a shared experience, says Bell, who built most of the cinema himself.

We like to screen old classics that take the audience back to their childhood, that spark memories and make people feel younger.

The
The Time cinema screening classics including British and American comedies of yesteryear is going on the market along with the house. Photograph: Grant Down/Harcourts

Bell grew up in the suburb of Island Bay and learned the art of cinema projection by observation.

In my younger days I spent a lot of time in projection boxes and learnt through trial and error, he said.

Exterior
Exterior of the Bells unassuming Wellington home Its such a movie city but our cinema is still quite secret. Photograph: Grant Down/Harcourts

New Zealands capital is home to Weta Workshops and director Peter Jacksons Park Road post-production house. People arriving at the international airport are welcomed to Middle Earth and the central city streets are decorated withdragons, wizards and orks from The Lord of The Rings.

Its such a movie city but our cinema is still quite secret, said Bell.

Thats why people love it when they come it feels special because it is such a surprise.

Harcourts real estate agent Steven Zee, who is selling the property, said the online listing had attracted thousands of page views and dozens of serious queries, including one from a local who wants to crowdfund to buy the cinema and keep it open to the public.

Zee suggested Peter Jackson, whose office is right down the road, might be interested.

It is an extremely unique property, I was blown away when I walked down the garden path and found a cinema in the shed, Zee said.

John
John Bell, 74, has amassed shelves of movie memorabilia. Photograph: Grant Down/Harcourts

Bell doesnt like the word downsizing but admits he and Margaret will be moving to a smaller home, on flatter ground. As they havent bought another house yet, he is unsure which cinema will become his local but if Timefalls into the right hands, hed like to keep watching the flicks there.

I want this [cinema] to go on forever. Margaret and I know we wont, so selling up means it possibly can.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/16/lord-of-the-flicks-new-zealand-home-with-an-old-time-cinema-in-the-shed

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