State Theatre

49 Market Street,
Sydney, NSW 2000

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State Theatre

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The magnificent State Theatre, located in the heart of downtown Sydney, opened on 7th June 1929 with Emil Jennings in Ernst Lubitsch’s “The Patriot”. Seating was provided for 2,775. It was then known as ‘The British Empire’s Greatest Theatre’. Paul Dunlavy was the debonir genius of the 4-manual console of the Wurlitzer organ, the largest outside of America. The State Theatre Orchestra was conducted by Will Prior.

Rising ten floors above the theater is the Gothic-style State Theatre Office Building, headquarters of the Greater Union Theatre Circuit. Just as they did with the plans for Sydney’s Capitol Theatre in 1927, Union Theatres boss Stuart Doyle and Australian architect Henry White, returned from the USA with sketches for the new $AU800,000 theater.

What wasn’t mentioned was that American architect John Eberson did the original plans and sketches for the State Theatre in association with Henry White. For all intents and purposes in Australia, it was believed that it was solely designed by White.

During the 1980’s, the main auditorium was restored, although the Wurlitzer is still waiting for $AU350,000 in funds for some tender-loving-care. Hanging above the three-tiered auditorium are thirteen chandeliers, surmounted by a three-and-one-half ton crystal chandelier, the second largest cut-crystal chandelier in the world, which is suspended from the theater’s golden dome.

The Gothic style entrance hall has life-size figures of King Arthur and St. George who greet those who enter. The main foyer boasts a grand sweeping marble staircase, with mirrored and tapestry draped walls.

The foyer area is used for filming TV commercials and some feature films have used the magnificent setting. The theater has been classified by the National Trust of Australia (NSW Division) for its high architectural quality and its essential heritage to the state of New South Wales.

Unfortunately, the theater no longer operates as a full-time cinema, but they do screen the occasional film for festivals. At other times it is used for stage, concert, rock presentations, and as a convention center. The State is a self-working venue and self-guided tours using an Acoustiguide handset are available, except Sunday and Monday, or when the theater is being used.

In 2011, work began converting the State Theatre Office building into a hotel. In early-2012, the Wurlitzer organ was shipped back to the USA for refurbishment.

Contributed by John Adey

Recent comments (view all 27 comments)

rwoodley
rwoodley on May 29, 2007 at 1:26 am

Message to Rebecca Pike,
The State Library of NSW, Macquarie St, Sydney, holds 54 of the drawings done to remodel the Hippodrome into the Capitol, 1926-1928.
Also held are images of the State Theatre, Melbourne and the Ambassadors Theatre, Perth, (based on the Capitol and State in Melbourne) but considered better.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on January 9, 2008 at 4:14 pm

set of interior photos:
View link

MPol
MPol on December 31, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Wpw!! This is the most fabulous-looking theatre to date..both inside AND out.

AnthonyMe
AnthonyMe on April 27, 2009 at 10:43 am

I have attended many an event and screening at the State. I attended a couple of functions there back in the mid-80s, for what I can’t remember, but various fully catered events with waiters etc. rushing around with trays of food and drink. The building was open for the guests to explore on their lonesome or as part of a group with guide. I did both for a couple of hours. It was fascinating. My only complaint with the State is that, despite the size of the auditorium, the screen is rather small. I always prefer to sit in the cheap seats and get as close to the image as possible to compensate! Haha!

And does anyone remember the State 2, the tiny downstairs theaterette?

Rogere
Rogere on January 2, 2010 at 2:33 am

According to the 1980s press,it cost a Million Dollars to clean the cinema to it’s former glory and they used Amway products I would loved to have been the distributor.

Rogere
Rogere on January 6, 2010 at 5:49 am

If you are sitting upstars and not at the very front this is a terrible place to watch anything the stage is too small.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 4, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Three pages about the State Theatre, with photos, appeared in an article about new Australian theaters in the October 5, 1929, issue of Motion Picture News.

First page

Second page

Third page.

ianpage
ianpage on July 8, 2013 at 6:02 pm

For a very well-executed virtual 3D tour, follow this link to the State’s official site… http://www.statetheatre.com.au/VirtualTour.aspx

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