State government throws historic Victoria Theatre a multi-million dollar lifeline

The state government has thrown the historic Victoria Theatre in Newcastle a multi-million dollar lifeline, which could see the doors re-open within 12 months.

The venue has not operated as a place of entertainment since it closed as a movie theatre in 1966. After this it was operated as Eastham’s Theatre Store, a retail fashion house.

Century Venues purchased the building in 2015, with the intention to restore it as a live working heritage theatre. Since then the company has spent money on foundational works to get it prepared for an upgrade.

Looking in from the outside on Perkins Street. Image: Jarrod Melmeth

On Tuesday, NSW Arts Minister Ben Franklin visited the theatre to announce the state government would hand over $4 million to see through stage one.

“This project will cement Newcastle as a top destination for the arts in NSW and provide new opportunities for audiences to enjoy dynamic creative experiences in world-class cultural infrastructure.

“Performances are on track to return to the historic location within 12 months, bringing 170,000 visitors, artists and staff to the theatre in its first three years.

“This is an important cultural infrastructure project for Newcastle that will shape its future as a destination for arts and culture and enhance experiences for audiences and visitors alike,” Mr Franklin said.

The venue will have a capacity of up to 900 when completed, which is set to provide smaller touring acts and local productions a smaller alternative to the Civic Theatre.

The stage inside the Victoria Theatre as it stands today. Image: Jarrod Melmeth

Executive Director of Century Venues Greg Khoury says the company will add to the funding announced on Tuesday, which will see through about 75 per cent of the estimated works.

“We do need to raise further money to do the full upgrade which would be the opening of the dress circle and the refurbishment of what we call the “wedge building” on the side of the stage,” Mr Khoury said. 

The development application for the theatre has already been approved by Newcastle Council and has been shovel ready since, awaiting investment to get the works underway.

Looking up at the dress circle from the stage. Image: Jarrod Melmeth

Mr Khoury says the active theatre will complement the revitalised East End of the city.

“There is nothing like an active theatre to generate vibrancy in a precinct. 

“You see Enmore Road now with the Enmore Theatre. It lights up like a Christmas Tree, when there is something on at The Enmore and it has completely regenerated that strip,” Mr Khoury said.

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