Barrie Everard began distributing movies in New Zealand in an age when the scene was dominated by rival cinema chains, who weren't above strangling the supply of films they had no interest in releasing themselves. Everard took risks — many of which paid off — including leaving corporate jobs so he could be his own boss. After working on local feature The Leading Edge, and successfully launching a boutique chain of Auckland cinemas, he became the first distributor/exhibitor to join the board of the NZ Film Commission, where he spent four years as chair.
Born in Tasmania in 1932, Barrie Patrick Everard began working in film in Australia, then moved to New Zealand in 1968 to work in distribution with Columbia Pictures New Zealand; he then became a manager for Columbia Warner.
In 1974, he founded his own distribution company Everard Films, which at one point he merged with the Kerridge Odeon chain (according to a 1993 Dominion profile, Everard wanted to be his own boss, and left again "basically because I couldn't stand it"). He distributed movies like The Who musical Tommy, and imported sound equipment so that concert film Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones could be heard in its full glory. He also flew to the United States to win the rights to a series of family adventure films, a deal he brokered at 1am over a coffee in Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel. The Wilderness Family films became local school holiday hits; Across the Great Divide broke house records at 23 Kerridge cinemas. Plans to launch local drive-in cinemas were stymied by government.
En route, Everard realised the value in promotional partnerships in radio, and later became the majority owner of one of Auckland’s first FM radio stations, Triple M 89FM. Everard was station manager when Triple M was one of the organisers of the notorious 1984 rock concert that led to the Queen St riot. He later told Metro that initially "the crowd at Aotea Square were having a brilliant time ... No doubt alcohol had some influence on what subsequently happened, but the riot was started by police ordering the concert to be stopped.”
The station rose to the top of the ratings; in 1990 he sold it to Radio New Zealand for $6 million.
In the early 90s he reactivated Everard Films and distributed a run of hits (The Commitments, Strictly Ballroom, Fried Green Tomatoes), and made some timely phone calls to secure local rights to The Piano. In 1993 the distributor became an exhibitor, after purchasing 17 rundown Pacer Kerridge cinemas, and a popcorn operation — the remains of one of the two major chains he'd once competed with, when he first started out as an indie. Cinema manager Cliff Fielding, who worked for Everard in this period, remembers him as "fun, fair and compassionate — a pleasure to work for".
Industry commentators mused that Everard would be walking a fine line as both a distributor and exhibitor, since he depended "for much of his supply on rivals Hoyts and Roadshow, both operating cinemas of their own". Later that year Everard joined with rival exhibitor Hoyts with plans to restore The Civic in Auckland’s Queen Street, and launch a multiplex next door. There were also hopes of turning Wellington's James Smith building into a combined multiplex, retail and apartment space.
Everard later established Berkeley Cinema Group where he helped evolve audience expectations of the cinema-going experience, via four Auckland locations where the emphasis was on comfort and service — e.g. adding a cafe to theatres, and luxury seating. Other chains emulated Berkeley’s example, and he was hired to manage the transition at cinemas like Reading in Wellington.
The Berkeley chain was sold to Hoyts Entertainment in 2010, in what The Dominion Post called a “dream sale” for Everard and his Berkeley partner Brian Eldridge. Later Hoyts' Australasian operations were purchased by Chinese cinema operator Wanda Cinema. Eldridge described how Everard "was well known as a charismatic industry leader. But what I learnt and admired was Barrie's ability to punch above his weight, find a way through and never give up. A favourite quote, ‘to win without risk is to triumph without glory’, reminds me of Baz.”
Everard first worked with local filmmakers on 1977 feature Off the Edge, a loose ‘documentary’ about a couple of extreme sports enthusiasts hang-gliding and skiing in the Southern Alps. Director Michael Firth invited Everard to distribute the film after managing to score some US investment. Everard felt Off the Edge "would strike the patriotism of New Zealanders because it showed just how beautiful this country is. We promoted it very strongly, opened at the Wintergarden [in Auckland] and it really took off”.
Off the Edge and Sleeping Dogs were both at the forefront of a NZ feature film resurgence. In 1977 Off the Edge was nominated for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards.
Everard was a key name in getting an Off the Edge companion movie off the ground: 1987's The Leading Edge. Merchant bankers Fay Richwhite invited him on board to ensure the new film got strong distribution, and financed it partly via a popular public float. Everard spoke at the time of The Leading Edge's prime markets being Japan, the United States and Europe, "because the movie is wall-to-wall action and there's a great soundtrack. They're also the skiing centres." The film's director Michael Firth described Everard as “one of the more adventurous film distributors”.
In 2001, with director Geoff Murphy, Everard produced Blerta Revisited, a celebration and compilation of multi-media ensemble the 'Bruno Lawrence Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition’. Everard also had executive producer credits on Murphy-directed road movie Never Say Die (starring Temuera Morrison), in which Everard has a short cameo in an office scene; on cult running 1979 documentary On the Run (a paean to coach Arthur Lydiard); and on Merata Mita’s 2001 film about artist Ralph Hotere.
In 1998 Everard was appointed to the board of the NZ Film Commission; from 2002 to 2006 he was chair. The first exhibitor/distributor to hold a position on the board, he argued that every film supported by the NZFC should make a priority of finding a local audience. In 2003 he told The NZ Herald’s John Drinnan that his philosophy was to "instil in filmmakers the need to keep the audience in mind”.
In the same period Everard found himself dragged into a media storm, when director Peter Jackson banned him and NZFC chief Ruth Harley from attending the premiere of The Two Towers. The spat involved questions over unpaid debts owed to Jackson-owned film lab The Film Unit, following the collapse of Larry Parr's Kahukura Productions.
In a 1993 profile for The Dominion by Robert Mannion, Everard is painted as charming but publicity shy, contrasting his low-key demeanour with his achievements. The profile concludes with the suggestion that if Everard was ever stuck for an epitaph “the titles of the two New Zealand films he’s produced might just do. One was The Leading Edge, the other Never Say Die.”
In the 2007 New Year's Honours, Everard was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the film industry. Barrie Everard died on 14 November 2016.
Profile published on 16 November 2016
Bob Dey, 'Everard key player' - The Dominion, 17 June 1993, page 1
John Drinnan, 'Scenes of struggle for emerging film industry' - The NZ Herald, 21 July 2003
John Drinnan, ‘Media: NZ slow to embrace wonders of 3D’ - The NZ Herald, 19 March 2010
Robert Mannion, ‘Taciturn Movie Man’ (Interview) - The Dominion, 19 June 1993, page 14
Rebecca Stevenson, 'Attitude is everything in the pursuit of business success' (Interview with Brian Eldridge)- The Dominion Post, 29 November 2010
Writer unknown, 'Taking it to the Edge' - Tempo 15, 28 August 1987, page 3
Writer unknown, ‘Farewell Barrie Everard’, NZ Film Commission website. Loaded 15 November 2016. Accessed 16 November 2016
'Barrie Patrick Everard' - The NZ Herald, 16 November 2016