Cinema Paradiso – Wanaka – Why it’s one of the ‘must do’s

This is hands down one of the best cinema experiences I’ve ever had!! It might not be a big deal to some, or to the locals, but it very much made me happy and I’d go again without a doubt! I’m not a movie buff at all, but if a Cinema Paradiso existed where I live, I could easily become one.


  • Cheap tickets $15 Adult
  • Cheap popcorn ($4.50 – $8.50)
  • Famous for the fresh baked cookies
  • Home made ice cream
  • Meals and wines/beers available to purchase and take in on a food-tray (forget paying for ‘gold-class’ tickets ever gain!)
  • Supermarket just across the road if you want to grab some other snacks before heading in
  • 5 mins from Lake Wanaka shore
  • Latest flicks

Cinema Paradiso is a quant and quirky little movie theatre with just two screens showing the latest flicks. It offers a little break from all the adventure activities Wanaka has to offer, while still giving you an experience very unique to the town. Surprisingly it makes a Top 10 things to do in Wanaka, and your hostel will likely have the latest film program on their notice board. We had a pretty chill day to spend in Wanaka, so after a morning hike to Mt Iron, then visiting Puzzle World, I organized to see the 5pm Maze Runner session. To be honest I was looking forward to the movies all day after reading all the positive reviews!

Cinema Paradiso is known for the freshly baked cookies – and yes, they are good! You can get chocolate and choc-chip (gluten free and vegan options are also available) when you arrive, or order for them to be baked in time for the intermission. They also have a REALLY good range of home-made ice creams, hot fresh popcorn and an array of meals like pizzas and pastas to choose from. You can order a meal with a beverage and bring it in with you on a food tray too! Water glasses are also free! I was only lining up for the tickets and was loving the feel already! I loved the charming, old-fashioned feel, home-comfort and quirkiness to the interior décor.

The movie theatre probably seats up to 100, with a wooden barn-style ceiling, comfy couches and pillows, and old-fashioned car, and an ample sized screen. We came just on the dot so we didn’t’ get to bag a couch, but the chairs were a decent screen center! Ads only played for 7 mins (unlike in Sydney where they’d literally go for 20-30mins) and before it officially started, the ticket salesman, an old gentleman, came in to make sure everyone was comfy and had all the snacks they needed. How sweet!

I was so excited to get my gluten-free cookie at intermission. Everyone all got up and rushed outside to collect their cookies or got some more popcorn before the movie restarted. Since my cookie was a special gluten free order it was served on a glass plate, though had way too many chocolate bits and was incredibly sugary. But I paired them with my salty potato chips and we all know salty-sweet are a marriage 😉

Maze Runner was a pretty awesome movie – probably another reason why Cinema Paradiso was such a great experience. Even coming out of it was enjoyable – a place for your dishes and separated bins for garbage / recyclables / disposables. Since it only houses two theatres, getting in and out was a jiffy too.

I’d suggest this as a top of the list thing to do for anyone visiting Wanaka if they’ve got time. Even if you’re out all day doing some adventurous, energy-consuming activity, you’ve got no excuse if offered the opportunity to kick back on a lounge and eat a warm cookie.

The food menu – pretty much like a restaurant! Except you can order and take it straight in with you to the movie. Compared to cinemas in Sydney, this is what I call home-comfort or gold-class 😉
The little eating area. It was cute seeing some older folk just come in for tea & cake, or share dinner an hour or two before watching a film.
First thing I saw coming out of theatre when the move was over. A place to put your dinner dishes and any rubbish separated into recyclables. LOVE IT!

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