Firm mulls theater revamp

Local | Amy Nip 23 Oct 2018

A leading conglomerate has applied for a compulsory sale order for tenants of the State Theater - the last remaining post-war standalone theater building - for redevelopment.

New World Development yesterday announced its submission to the Lands Tribunal, adding it will "actively consider how to preserve the essence of the former State Theater" in the redevelopment.

The 1,400-seat cinema in North Point opened as the Empire Theater in 1952, and was renamed State Theater in 1959.

It closed in 1997, and is now being used as a snooker parlor. Conservationists have campaigned to preserve the building, which is renowned for its "arch bridge" roof.

The Antiquities Advisory Board voted to upgrade it from Grade III to Grade I historical building, meaning it recommends every effort be made to preserve the building.

A New World Group spokeswoman said the intention is to conserve those parts of the current residential and commercial building that was the former State Theater.

"The group is not in a position to confirm any development plan until it has acquired 100 percent ownership and conducted a thorough inspection," it stated. The minimum requirement to trigger a compulsory sale is 80 percent.

To increase public understanding of the history of North Point, as well as the former State Theater's historical significance and cultural value, the group will coordinate with community groups to carry out programs to "gather the collective memories of Hong Kong people."

Together with community groups, it will also organize talks and guided tours, as well as activities to gather memories of North Point and the theater.

Former antiquities board member Ho Puay-peng, former chief curator of the Hong Kong Museum of History Joseph Ting Sun-pao and former artistic director of Hong Kong Repertory Theater Fredric Mao Chun-fai will be among the advisers.

Walk in Hong Kong, which has campaigned to preserve the theater since 2016, urged New World to make the conservation of the landmark a reality.

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