Empire Theatre

56 Neil Street,
Toowoomba, QLD 4350

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Empire Theatre

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Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre combines the grandeur of a heritage listed Art Deco theatre with modern technical and staging facilities, which means that audiences can see the biggest productions in one of the most magical theatres in Australia.

The Empire Theatre was originally built on 29th June 1911 as regional Australia’s largest theatre, originally with 2,000 seats, a title it still holds to this day. The original architect was George Lane. The building was all but destroyed by fire in February 1933, with only two side walls left standing.

The Empire Theatre was rebuilt, reopening nine months later, in the Art Deco style popular during the 1930’s and once again became the hub of the region’s entertainment and cultural life. The Empire featured live performances but mainly operated as a cinema. Many older residents of Toowoomba have fond memories of the theatre including the excitement of the introduction of “talkies” films with synchronised sound.

Gradually declining audience numbers and competition from the newer medium of television saw the theatre close in 1971 with the retirement of long standing manager, Mr Bob Dodd.

The building sat sad and neglected for many years, used as a warehouse and also by the TAFE College, until the need for a performing arts centre once again saw life breathed back into this unique building.

The Empire Theatre underwent an award winning restoration by architectural firm Hassell, with modern facilities to compliment the heritage listed, Art Deco foyers and auditorium. The venue re-opened in June 1997 and has enchanted visitors from around the world with its opulent auditorium and grand proscenium arch and unique “Bomber Light”. The Empire Theatre has once again taken its role as central to the cultural life of the community and hosts a wide variety of arts including Australian and international performers as well as local productions and school eisteddfods. The Empire is also a popular venue for conferences. Visitors, both national and international are impressed and delighted with the complex, ushering in a new era of entertainment and performing arts on the Darling Downs.

The Empire Theatre is rich in history and guided tours can be arranged through the theater. The Empire Theatre remains the largest regional performing arts complex in Australia and is proudly Toowoomba’s own.

Contributed by Andrew Mason

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

sdoerr
sdoerr on November 28, 2003 at 8:42 pm

Wow what a large and unique lighted stage!

tomdelay
tomdelay on September 12, 2006 at 5:22 am

Did this theatre ever have a pipe organ? If so, what was it?

The website claims a chapel has been added to the Empire complex and that the chapel has a pipe organ. I am just curious about the
theatre auditorium itself.

ilreput
ilreput on March 27, 2007 at 8:54 pm

In 1980 I was a drama student at Uni in Toowoomba and saw the inside of this theatre prior to any talk of restoration. I never thought it would ever be resurrected from the outrageous vandalism it had been subjected to during the time it sat silent. Anything within arms reach had been ripped up and smashed, the ceiling had huge gaps and 2 feet of rubble covered all floor space. In what had once been the main foyer, an enormous poster of Gone With the Wind framed in hundreds of gold-leafed cardboard crescents had been reduced to a barely legible image, only 3 or 4 crescents remained. A wall of original Coca-Cola mirrors, that had once decorated the refreshments area, were now only jagged bits of glass. The building looked in the last throws of death. I am yet to see the restoration except in pictures, but it’s a miracle that this art deco wonder rose again

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