The 'Barge' at Auckland's Civic Theatre was a fanciful replica of an Italian Gondola. The shell was placed upon a steel frame which was lifted up from the pit by two 'screws' powered by direct current.
Initially it seated 30 musicians who would seat themselves via a passageway under the stage so that as it rose they are already playing. This would provide the "Overture" and other musical highlights, accompany the artists, dancers, and singers, for the first half entertainment, and compliment the Wurlitzer Organ which itself had the highest "lipstick tube" rise in the Southern Hemisphere. It was used also to advertise forthcoming films.
"Immediately prior to his main attraction, Rex Harris (projectionist) blacked out his theatre while a spotlight was thrown on the Barge, which rose from a well, carrying a glittering 24 sheet of "Coming Attractions". Motion Picture 'Herald" April 25th 1942.
During the war years it was used to great effect both for bands, i.e. Artie Shaw, being able to rise to the level of the Civic stage, and after the screening, to the Wintergarden level to accompany the nightclub dancers. Freda Stark, wrapped in blue tulle and seated in a replica champagne coupe, rose to the stage in the barge to dance on stage - to the Marine's delight! It also housed visiting concert artists such as Jethro Tull and the Rolling Stones.
With the closure of the nightclub and the building of the Wintergarden cinema in the nightclub space, the lift became inoperable. The woodwork slowly rotted and all that remains are the brass 'screws' and the steel frame.
During renovations to form a larger stage for the lyric theatre in 2000 the pit was cemented over and is now only a void.