High Five… New Zealand’s South Island!

Emma Allen
STA Travel
11 July 2013

"I was lucky enough to visit New Zealand’s South Island for the first time recently, and to say I was blown away would be an understatement as I cruised around the South Island on a whistle-stop, week-long tour.

The place never stopped amazing me; from the beautiful scenery and vast landscapes to adrenaline fuelled adventure sports, awesome bars, restaurants and nightlife, and the friendly, laid-back people who call this fantastic place home ...

Don’t leave Wanaka without taking a cruise to the Mou Waho Island Nature Reserve, a unique island at the centre of the lake with some fantastic views of Wanaka.

Then wind down at the famous Cinema Paradiso, where freshly baked cookies, homemade ice cream and an ice cold beer await as you watch the latest movies from a comfy sofa or old Morris Minor. Pure happiness."

Les Fraser, Aberdeen
April 2013

"Having just returned from yet another wonderful holiday in wonderful Wanaka I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed my visits to the Cinema Paradiso in between bouts of tramping.

My heart sank when I first arrived in town and saw your old building lying empty but soon found out that you had got yourself a new place which I really like and was pleased to see that it has lost none of the charm of it’s predecessor while having much more space for dining etc which is good.

Great films, friendly staff and brilliant food and drinks! A wonderful cinema!"


Mandy Lim sneaks a peek at five movie theatres with a difference.
SilverKris - The Travel Magazine of Singapore Airlines
May 2012

"A film, in itself, can quite often leave you with a sense of awe and wonderment. Some cinemas, however, up the ante for the audience by creating a unique atmosphere or simply by providing a movie-going experience like no other.

Paradiso: Cinema, Café, Bar — Wanaka, New Zealand

The little alpine town of Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island may be famed for its natural beauty, but step into Paradiso and you’ll discover why it’s gradually becoming the town’s biggest attraction. Let the aroma of freshly baked cookies and pizza lead you in, or indulge in homemade ice cream – passionfruit is a hot favourite – and locally brewed beers, all of which are available before, during or after the movie. But here’s the clincher: you get to pick your seat of choice from comfy couches, plane seats or the much-coveted photo opportunity – the Cinema Paradiso car (above right). In the end, whether you’re watching the latest box office hit or an art film almost doesn’t matter in this cinema where film takes a back seat."


My Postcard from New Zealand
7 February 2012

"The small Southern alpine town of Wanaka is world famous for its natural beauty, hiking, skiing, fishing and laid-back vibe, however the town is also home to Cinema Paradiso, ‘the best little cinema in the world’.

Cinema Paradiso is not your average run-of-the-mill cinema, the moment you step through the doors into the café/entrance area you are aware this cinema is different. The seducing smell of freshly baked cookies and homemade pizzas hit you as soon as you enter Cinema Paradiso.

The small café bakes all its own food, the cookies and pizzas are particularly good, and Cinema Paradiso also serves locally brewed beers (Brewski and Cardona from the Wanaka Brewery). All of which are available during the interval of the film.

So while Cinema Paradiso also serves as a wicked little café the true brilliance of the ‘best little cinema in the world’ lies behind the swing doors. Queues form early as locals and returning visitors know what awaits them.

Pick your seat: a couch, plane seat or the Cinema Paradiso car. As the doors swing open, the queue rushes forward, everyone wants to find their favourite spot, be it a couch at the front, the airline seats at the back or the car located to the side. First-time visitors may be tempted to head straight for the car and with good reason; it’s a great photo opportunity.

Once everyone has found their seat, maybe even trying out a few different options, there is nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the show, Cinema Paradiso, where the film takes a back seat."


"Now it's official; I want to move here...I'm at the dinner table. Tiffany has made another delicious meal and I chat with Stephanie and Denis over more fine Wanaka wines before we head into town to watch a film at Cinema Paradiso. Instead of the usual boring seats, the theatre has a variety of comfy sofas and an old car to sit in. Halfway through the movie, the lights go up and we file out for an intermission treat. The smell of homemade cookies wafts through the theatre but the passionfruit icecream is too tempting. This homely theatre has been raved about in Lonely Planet and The Guardian."

Andrea_K66, Australia via Trip Advisor
May 2011

"We were on holidays in Wanaka, and had heard about the Paradiso from our tour guide at Franz Josef. On mothers day my family and I enjoyed an afternoon at this cinema. Instead of rows of seats the cinema has comfy lounges. We packed in with the locals, and enjoyed snuggling into the lounge as the movie started. At interval we bought coffee and the most delicious just out of the oven biscuits. The kids enjoyed their home made icecreams. The coffee and biscuits were so good that we bought more for the road after the movie finished. A great experience, highly recommended."

Patrice3 via Trip Advisor
March 2011

"This small classic movie theatre located in Wanaka is a real find - The best thing is, just like the good old days, there’s an intermission!"

"I live in Wanaka and love going to movies at the Paradiso. It has such a great atmosphere with sofas, chairs and a Morris Minor car for seating! You still have an interval at half time and can either have a pre-ordered meal, glass of wine, scrummy cookies baked on the premises or a delicious Paradiso made ice cream. The staff are so friendly, as is the owner, who has a great sense of humour. You couldn't recreate the decor and atmosphere if you tried now and it brings back memories of another era. I will be very sorry if it ever closes down."

Leon McCarron
The Cycling Reporter
20 December 2010

"I arrived at the Paradiso cinema for one of my favourite evening activities – moviegoing. This, however, was to be one quite unlike any other. Scottish owner Calum McLeod has made this spot quite the envy of his competitors by turning it into something much more than a moviehouse. Instead of the regular seats you would expect to find in such a place, imagine sofas, recliners – even the full interior of an old Chevy. Then add to that the ability to bring food and drink inside from the café at the entrance. If you finish your food or need more, then no worries – there’s an intermission in every film so you can head out to refuel! I caught the opening night of Harry Potter. The movie wasn’t bad, but the experience would have outshone even the best of films."

Rachel Pinder via
October 2009

"Wanaka is well-known for its lake and stunning mountain backdrop. But it’s getting more and more well-known for its cinema.Y’see, Wanaka doesn’t have an every day, run-of-the-mill cinema. Oh no! Wanaka has a cinema unlike any other you’ve probably been in before.Instead of the usual regulation big screen complex, Cinema Paradiso has comfy old sofas, armchairs you can sink into, airline seats, a lazyboy and even three seats inside an old yellow Morris Minor. Now you don’t see that every day. So once you’ve found a good spot, go and check out the cinema’s café and bar, where you can enjoy a scrummy meal either before, during or after the movie. There’s melt-in-the-mouth freshly baked cookies still warm from the oven, a selection of dips, garlic bread, home-made pizza and wraps or, for the really hungry, there’s Thai yellow curry, Paradiso lasagne, fish pie or a steak sandwich. And it doesn’t stop there. You can wash it all down with a cold beer or chilled wine, or warm yourself up with a freshly brewed coffee or hot chocolate. Oh, and don’t forget the yummy cakes, slices and ice-cream! The best thing is, just like the good old days, there’s an intermission. So if you get the munchies half way through the film, you can stock up during the break. Or if you didn’t have time to have dinner beforehand, order it before the show and it will be ready at half-time! You could even order a dessert to enjoy after the movie ends. Magic! It’s just like being round your mates’ house, except you’re watching the movie with a whole theatre-full of randoms and you can’t beat it for the comfort factor!"

Yahoo Top Ten Things to do in The South Island - 5 The pick of the movies

Lisa Wolff
Yahoo!7 online
October 2009

"After a few days of adrenaline activities, I was craving an activity which didn't make my heart plummet to my feet. Cinema Paradiso, the unique movie theatre in Wanaka offers a more sedate but just as enjoyable adventure. It's a cinema straight out of Alice in Wonderland complete with a real Morris Minor serving as an unusual love-seat. There are also arm chairs and comfy couches to cuddle up on. Meals and snacks are available before and after the movie. But my favourite part was interval when giant-sized, freshly baked cookies can be purchased. I'd go to the movies just to get another bite of those moreish chocolate chip biscuits."

The Age, Melbourne
July 2009

"For rustic cinema heaven, Wanaka's Cinema Paradiso shouldn't be missed. With comfy couches, red wine and home-made buscuits in the interval. It's a much-loved Wanaka institution!"

Ian, England via
March 2009

"Totally unique experience. Cinema of the future! All cinemas should be like this. Relaxed, very comfortable especially if you bag the leather sofa!! Staff brilliant as is the food. Get to speak with the boss he enthuses about the cinema! AND IT SHOWS GREAT FILMS!!! 10/10"

Lonely Planet New Zealand
September 2008

"Deservedly one of Wanaka's biggest attractions, and just maybe a New Zealand national treasure. Sit yourself down in an old lounge chair or sofa in this eccentric cinema. Doors open one hour before the screenings, giving you time to order your beer, wine, coffee's home-made ice-cream or still warm giant cookies. Dinner including pizza and Thai curry can also be pre-ordered and is served during intermission. Shows include Hollywood blockbusters and a surprisingly eclectis and international mix of art-house flicks"

Wiebke Lorenzen, Germany
November 2008

"Hello there, I went to see a movie in your wonderful cinema last week and just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed it. This has definitely been the best cinema i have ever been to, you guys are doing a wonderful job. I am even sad that I couldn't stay any longer in Wanaka to go a second time ;-).

I have to mention the great food, cannot get those cookies out of my head anymore. You don't happen give the recipes away, do you? Maybe you should consider making a cooking/baking book.... I just can't get cookies like that back in Germany!

Greetings, Wiebke Lorenzen"
May 2007

"We had beautiful sunny weather the following day. Around 28 degrees. So we soaked it up sitting beside Lake Wanaka which is beautiful with stunning mountainous views. We had a delicious dinner (Fajitas) before watching Apocalypto at Cinema Paradiso (an independent cinema with a difference - worth checking out). Cool little cinema with proper old style couches and an intermission when you can buy some cakes or ice cream. I really enjoyed it...Wanaka is a beautiful place and definitely worth checking out for a few days (at least)."

September 2007

"Although you should mainly go to Lake Wanaka for the stunning lake and the surrounding views, it is also worth visiting the very cool, independent cinema that this tiny town has. You can kick back and relax on the lovely, beaten up sofas (instead of the uncomfortable chairs normally found in this type of establishment!) There is even an old shell of a car, decked out with cushions, which you can sit in!"

May 2006

"Our next stop after Franz Josef was the lakeside town of Wanaka. This has possibly one of the coolest (sweet as?) cinemas ever! It's a small affair, with a cafe attached and a projection pod which, according to Hannah, is much like Flix's (her old student cinema) in that there's rubbish everywhere inside it. The cool bit, apart from the intimate size and indie-ish film schedule, is the seating. There are about four rows of assorted old sofas and big leather armchairs, a chest full of cushions and beanbags, and about two-thirds of a yellow Morris Minor at one side! It was so homely that we felt compelled to take our shoes off. They also have a proper intermission, in which you have a chance to buy some of their huge home-made cookies - fabulous, if extremely filling! Oh - the film we saw was "Lord of War", with Nicholas Cage."

Sunday Magazine
July 2006

"The essence of theatre, maintains devotee Roy Colbert, involves two things; half-time and ice-cream. Long may they continue...I go to the theatre for the ice-cream at half-time. I make no bones about this, that's the main reason I'm there show after show. The ice-cream...I could point out that Cinema Paradiso in Wanaka, whose furniture includes a yellow Morris Minor, is a lovely little boutique theatre that has brought the half-time's just like the golden period of the movies"

Susan Buckland
AA Magazine
Spring 2003

"If watching a movie in a Morris Minor captures your imagination, head for the Paradiso Cinema in Wanaka. There’s always a rush for the little car positioned inside the cinema, but you could also try for one of the Paradiso armchairs if you miss out on the Morry. Scottish immigrant Calum Macleod is the innovative owner of the Paradiso and he doesn’t blink an eye when you sink into one of his chairs with a pizza, panini, falafel or fizzy. In fact, he encourages the civilised art of simultaneous movie-watching and dining. If you prefer to keep the two separate, Calum will serve you your main course in his adjoining restaurant before the movie and dessert at the end. In between there’s time for a beer because no matter how much suspense in the story there’s always an interval."

The Christchurch Press
October 2001

"It is the coolest theatre experience you're likely to find this side of the equator. And what's this warm, witty welcome all about? Where are the bored ticket-tearers, the intolerably cramped seats, and skinny armrests? Hasn't anyone told MacLeod about the etiquette of modern movie-going?...'It's fantastic. This is like having a big screen cinema in your living room!' Melbourne visitor John Hutcheon says...Macleod, who is particularly fond of arthouse and independant films says Cinema Paradiso is unique...'The generic cinema that you walk into could be in Bangkok, London, Sydney, Auckland wherever. You walk out thinking that you have been processed.' There is no chance of feeling that way at Cinema Paradiso, revered by locals and visitors as a Wanaka treasure. The Paradiso puts a premium on home comforts, giving patrons the choice of -Several Sofas, A Lazyboy Recliner, A Brown Vinyl Monstrosity held together by duct tape, 32 other Lounge Chairs, 3 Seats in a Morris Minor, 3 Passenger Seats from a Chinese Airline [rescued from a basement of a Wanaka home - 'Something that gives me a real buzz is having people leaving at the end of the night going 'This is the best cinema I've ever been to' Hopefully they will remember Wanaka and the tossy Scotsman who talked shite!"

The UK Guardian
January 2001

"My week started with a very pleasant couple of days in the lakeside town of Wanaka. It's a small place but with a good selection of bars and cafes and it's in a beautiful setting, nestled among the mountains of the Southern alps. There are a number of good walks you can do along the lakeshore or in the surrounding hills. I had been planning to climb Mount Roy. But while strolling around the western shore I stumbled across the tiny Rippon Vineyards where you could do wine tasting. After a few glasses of the local riesling, a little sleep in the sun among the vines seemed a much more relaxing option than climbing mountains. That evening I treated myself to a trip to the pictures. The movie was a laughably bad Dennis Quaid vehicle called Frequency. But the film didn't really matter because Wanaka cinema was such a delight. About the size of a village hall, the seating was a motley assortment of armchairs and sofas with a convertible Morris Minor thrown in for good measure. Halfway through, the film stopped and we had a short interval. Everyone went outside to the adjoining cafe and got freshly baked cookies (still warm), homemade ice cream or a beer and then settled back into their armchairs. This is how all cinemas should be. It was more like being round someone's house."

The Otago Daily Times
November 1999

"It would be rare to find a cinema listed as a tourist attraction in an international backpackers guide, let alone find a classic Morris Minor convertible as part of the everyday furniture. But, Lonely Planet lists the Wanaka Cinema Paradiso in the "must do" category and yes, it does have an old car parked in the front row. While owners Calum McLeod, his wife Andrea Riley and friend Brian Hildreth did not deliberately set out four years ago to create such a popular ambience in their business, it came about more out of necessity. Mr McLeod recalled how they originally set up in the Wanaka town hall with one couch. "That is where the rugby scrums started as everyone wanted the comfortable couch." Garage sales and second-hand stores unearthed the rest of the seating and cushions which have become the trademark of the cinema. There are a couple of rows of the traditional old movie seats if nostalgia is your thing."

Unwinding in Laid Back Wanaka

The Sunday Star Times
September 1998

"Another must in Wanaka is the flicks. Scotsman Calum MacLeod has converted an old electrical sales shop into his own Cinema Paradiso by spreading out 50 comfy chairs and couches. It's a special occasion with a decent intermission, fresh coffee and home-made ice-cream. Be prepared to hear Mr Macleod stand up and lambast the poor local who requested a bad movie. 'That all started when someone requested The Blue Kite - a Chinese film. It should have been called The Blue Shite' he grins ' It was intrinsically boring, set entirely in a courtyard, all of the main characters died and the moral of the story was totalitarian regiems are bad!' Fortunately, the occasional badly chosed movie is about the only boring thing you'll find in this cinema."