King's Road and Tin Chong Street,
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The Empire Theatre was the first deluxe theatre to be built in the newly developed North Point neighbourhood on Hong Kong Island. It opened on 11th December 1952, with Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman in “Just for You”.
The theatre was managed by Harry Odell’s Commonwealth Enterprise Corp.Ltd.
According to its opening advertisement, the theatre had a free underground car park for the patrons.
An external feature of the building is the series of exposed parabolic concrete arches on the roof, possibly the only known example in the world. The theatre building had a restaurant and a billiards house, and the auditorium was on the first floor. It had a tringular shaped stage for stage performance. Due to the lack of a proper concert hall in Hong Kong in the 1950’s, the theatre was an alternative venue for recitals by visiting soloists. In 1956 British tenor Peter Pears appeared with British composer Benjamin Britten.
It showed first and re-run English language films in its first three years. In 1956, Mandarin language films were shown. In its final year, it showed re-run English language films.
The Empire Theatre closed on 2nd September 1957.
A residential block was built on the adjacent site, and the theatre building became its annex.
The renamed State Theatre opened to business after extensive renovations on 8th February 1959 with a re-run movie “Pal Joey”.
An advertisement for the new theatre boasted of:
“New Westrex sound and projection equipment;
56 foot wide ‘giant’ screen;
New air-conditioning plant-York;
American ‘Bodiform’ chairs spaciously installed;
Luxuriously furnished and air-conditioned foyer for loge seat patrons;
Lift service to dress circle".
The spacious lobby on the ground floor of the former Empire Theatre was converted into shops with only a small part remained. The lobby of the State Theatre was connected with the shopping mall in the adjacent residential building. The underground car park was not mentioned and I assume that it was closed.
In its first year, re-run English language and first run Mandarin language films were shown. In the 1960’s, it showed first run English language films, including in 1965 “Lawrence of Aribia” and in 1966 “The Sound of Music”. From the early-1970’s until its closure on 1st March 1997, Mandarin language and Cantonese language films were shown. Its final film was Jackie Chan in “Mr. Nice Guy”.
Cantonese operas were also always performed at the theatre. It was a favourite venue for Mandarin vaudeville shows in the early-1970’s.
In the remaining years before its closure, the apparatus and service of the theatre deteriorated rapidly.
Nowadays, the auditorium has been converted into a billiards hall, and the facade of the theatre building is covered by huge bill-boards. In 2016 plans were proposed to attain a Grade I Listing for the building.
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