Cultural Heritage

Hong Kong antiquities body defers decision on historic status of State Theatre Building

Members say they want more information about what is inside the building, alterations and its role in the city’s theatre history

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 April, 2016, 9:56pm
UPDATED : Monday, 18 April, 2016, 9:56pm

No decision was reached on the historic status of the former State Theatre Building in North Point after the city’s heritage advisory body said it needed more information from the government about the structure.

The Antiquities Advisory Board’s assessment panel earlier proposed to rate the building as a Grade 3 historic structure.

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Board chairman Andrew Lam Siu-lo explained on Monday the board had to delay the grading after questions showed more research was needed.

“After a few rounds of discussion, many members raised numerous questions and concerns on the historic value and the architectural merit of the building,” said Lam.

“But according to the information available, we consider ... it’s inadequate to provide us with a very solid reference or foundation to make any decision.”

Lam said the board needed more information in areas like details of the building’s interior, the extent of alterations and the status of the facility in relation to the development of the city’s theatre history.

The board considered the issue after community activists raised concern that the building was being bought up for redevelopment, and urged the board to grade the building quickly.

But an official from the Development Bureau told the meeting on Monday that the building, with scattered ownership, was under no immediate threat of demolition.

Located at the corner of King’s Road and Tin Chong Street, the State Theatre Building is best known for the iconic parabola-arched structures on its roof.

Systemic problems facing attempts to preserve Hong Kong’s heritage

Originally called the Empire Theatre when it opened in 1952, the cinema complex had a busy life until it ceased to operate in 1997. Performers who once graced its stage included the late British tenor Peter Pears, Katherine Dunham’s Broadway dance company and the late Taiwanese pop singer Teresa Teng.

The board heard yesterday it was the third oldest surviving theatre in Hong Kong, ranking just after the Yau Ma Tei Theatre in Kowloon and Cheung Chau Theatre.

Some board members asked why it deserved only a Grade 3 status given its “unique architecture” and the role it played in the city’s entertainment industry.

Professor Ho Puay-peng, a board member, said he regretted that the assessment panel did not provide more information about the interior of the cinema complex, which is now made up of shops, flats and a snooker club.

A building with a Grade 3 status means its preservation is desirable, although the owners can still alter or demolish it as only a monument is protected by law.