The extension of an popular immersive exhibition that retraces the memories of one of Hong Kong’s most iconic cinema buildings, and the past glory of the local film and entertainment industries, has set high expectations for one of the city’s largest privately-run heritage conservation projects.
A new life will be given to dilapidated cinema, the State Theatre building, a Grade I historic site at North Point on Hong Kong Island. The conservation and redevelopment plan is spearheaded by New World Development’s CEO Adrian Cheng, a billionaire who is known for his love of art, culture and heritage.
“The State Theatre is one of the last standing cultural icons of Hong Kong and together with our international team, we will do our best to conserve and restore this iconic building to its original glamour and build a cultural oasis that serves the community,” Cheng said in a statement.
The cinema building, originally designed by architects S.F. Lew and George W. Grey, is known for an iconic parabolic exoskeleton truss that supports the structure. It was first opened in 1952 as Empire Theatre by Harry Oscar Odell and could seat 1,300 visitors.
It was originally a venue for theatrical and musical performances, but was renamed the State Theatre in 1959. The change came as Hong Kong rose to become an entertainment hub for the East Asian region and was dubbed “Hollywood of the Far East.”
The property developer embarked on the conservation project after consolidating ownership of the site last year. Cheung appointed British firms WilkinsonEyre and Purcell, which worked on the restoration of Tai Kwun, the former Central Police Station Compound in Hong Kong, and Hong Kong’s AGC design. The cost of the new project has not been disclosed.
A meticulous conservation process is expected to take five years to complete and will begin after the closure of exhibition “Discover the State Theatre in All of Us,” an immersive experience that is currently staged at the site. The show, hatched by Culture for Tomorrow, a non-profit organization founded by Cheng, takes visitors on a time travel journey back to the Golden Era of Hong Kong’s film and entertainment industries.
The exhibition features a range of artefacts, props and recreated sets inside the former shopping arcade of the State Theatre building. It opened in early April and was originally scheduled to run for a month. But its popularity has prompted organizers to extend its run to May 16.
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