• Waikato 2
  • Waikato 1
  • Waikato 3
  • © JASMAX Architects
  • © JASMAX Architects
  • © JASMAX Architects

A new cultural heart for the city and region

Waikato Regional Theatre


Project Summary


The city of Hamilton is the seat of New Zealand’s Waikato region and it is the country’s fourth most populous and third fastest growing urban area. The Founders Theatre, built in 1962, was until recently the city’s largest and best known theatrical venue with a 1,250-seat capacity. It played host to a range of locally produced and touring shows. The theatre was closed abruptly in 2016 due to health and safety concerns.


Momentum Waikato Community Foundation, with support from Hamilton City Council, have engaged Charcoalblue to lead the development for a new venue. Following an extensive consultation with the local, regional, and national arts organisations, a concept for a new flexible 1,100-seat flexible lyric theatre has been developed. The venue will host touring musicals and drama, locally produced theatre and dance, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and the Royal New Zealand Ballet.


With our partner architects, JASMAX, a new city centre site has been proposed. The location will solidify an arts precinct within Hamilton, along with other performance, museum, and gallery spaces. The site was formerly the location of the Embassy Theatre, the predecessor to Founders Theatre, and so provides a rich cultural heritage. The location will offer renewed engagement of city centre public spaces with the Waikato River, linking to parkland and providing excellent views.


The proposed development is planned to link to the refurbishment of the historic Hamilton Hotel to provide a lifestyle art hotel and visual art gallery.