Finding Dorothy Browns: Arrowtown’s boutique cinema

The Historic Dorothy Browns Cinema in Arrowtown

There’s only one thing better than a movie at Dorothy Browns, and that’s a drink at the Blue Door beforehand. But for the first-time visitor to Arrowtown’s much-loved boutique cinema, the real challenge is knowing where to find these elusive venues.

By day, Arrowtown is a bustling tourist hub where visitors flock to soak in the sights of this historic gold mining town. But by night, Arrowtown is the place to go for two of the coolest venues in the district. If you ask a local for Arrowtown must-dos, they will certainly tell you that Dorothy Brown’s and the Blue Door is worth a visit. The only catch is that they may not tell you how to find them.

Often touted as one of the best cinemas in New Zealand, Dorothy Brown’s is a true night out at the movies. Yet despite its status, Dorothy Brown’s doesn’t flaunt itself. Perhaps this comes from the cinema’s namesake.


Dorothy Brown was a notable photographer who lived in the early 1900s. She was a rebel of the era who scandalously lived with a Chinese man from the gold mining community. There is conjecture around whether or not Dorothy also ran an opium den. Whatever her proclivities, Dorothy was a local identity who would go on to became a legend. A more than worthy namesake for the boutique art house cinema that stands at the top of Buckingham Street today.

Step into Dorothy Brown’s and the scene is nothing like the homogenous styling and neon lights of today’s cinema multiplexes. The ticket desk is also the bar where the friendly staff will serve you a glass of local wine or a cheese board. There is a small bookstore stocking a curious selection of fiction and non-fiction works. Framed photos of visiting stars and artists hang above the cosy fireplace.


But it is the cinema itself that is, without a doubt, the most impressive aspect of the Dorothy Brown’s experience. Every seat in the cinema is a large comfy sofa seat allowing you to enjoy plenty of room to stretch out without getting anywhere near the person in front of you. Large armrests give you plenty of room for that cheese board and glass of wine.

dorothy brown arrowtown reception

The décor is a luxurious mix of romantic charm and quirkiness. The walls and ceiling are draped in pink, patterned fabric creating an atmosphere that is somewhere between a night out at a grand theatre and cosying up in grandma’s lounge room. The smaller den cinema next door is an intimate experience offering just a handful of seats. If it weren’t for the huge screen, you could be mistaken for thinking you were on the sofa at home.

The Dorothy Brown’s movie selection will impress any film aficionado. This is where you go to find foreign and art house movies, as well as a quality selection of contemporary movies.


The best thing about Dorothy Brown’s? The intermission! Why don’t we have an intermission at the movies anymore? There is so much right with taking a break in the middle of the movie to top up your glass, take a comfort stop and have a quick discussion with your companion about the movie. Savvy moviegoers pre-order their cheese board so that it is ready for collection during the intermission break. Perfect.


finding dorothy brown

And so what of Blue Door, the best-kept secret in Arrowtown? If you are at Dorothy Brown’s, then you are very close. Just ask a local, and they’ll hopefully point you in the right direction. The best tip we can give you is to look for the blue door!

Blue Door is more of a snug than a bar. But it’s impressive selection of fine wines, beers and spirits are worthy of something much bigger. Step through the low doorway, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by stone walls, a roaring fire, couches that are way too comfy and candles.

You may never want to leave. Unless you have a movie to catch