With beautiful parks, on going concerts and shows, bush walks or challenging walks, museums, endless shopping, relaxing cinemas all on offer right here in Toowoomba there is no need to wonder how you’re going to fill in the weekends or even if you’re here for a short stay there is plenty to see and do.
But today we are featuring the Empire Theatre This magnificent building alone is what makes going to the Empire theatre all that bit more special.
Toowoomba has long been a very socially active cultural setting which led to the construction of the largest performing arts centre and cinema in regional Australia.
The Empire Theatre originally opened on Thursday 29 June 1911, however in the early evening of Wednesday 22 February 1933 fire broke out at the Empire Theatre and most of the original theatre was destroyed. Only the northern and southern walls were left standing and these were incorporated into the rebuilding of the theatre, which reopened on 27 November the same year. The 1933 theatre was built in the detailed art deco style, which was popular at the time. Its seating capacity was 2,400 patrons.
For many years the Empire Theatre was the cultural hub of Toowoomba, a meeting place pot for the entire local community. However, by 1971 competition from other forms of entertainment including television resulted in the eventual closure of the large theatre.
After closure, the theatre was used as a warehouse and by the TAFE College before falling into disrepair. The theatre sat slowly decaying and it seemed it was to be lost forever. However, a need for Toowoomba to have a performing arts complex saw the Empire Theatre undergo an award-winning restoration to serve the people once more. The doors re-opened on Saturday 28 June, 1997.
Heritage listed, the Theatre now boasts the latest purpose-built facilities a well as retaining the grandeur and superb acoustics of the original theatre. The interior styling has been faithfully restored to the finest detail. The grand proscenium arch, thought to be the only one of its kind remaining in the Southern Hemisphere.
Since reopening in 1997 the Empire Theatre, in its third incarnation, has received commendation from visitors, patrons and performers alike. The new complex retains the existing elements from 1911 and 1933 and complements them with modern seating for 1567 people (1000 seats in the stalls and 567 in the dress circle). The Empire Theatres cultural precinct remains the largest performing arts theatre in regional Australia.
The Empire has a dedicated group of volunteers called The Friends of the Empire Theatre who support the venues by providing assistance through fundraising activities and a volunteer workforce.
To further serve the cultural needs of the community the company also launched the Empire Theatres Foundation in 2003. The Foundation is a registered charitable trust which seeks to provide performing arts opportunities to further the cultural experiences and professional development of young people in the Toowoomba region. The patron of the Empire Theatres Foundation is internationally renowned actor Geoffrey Rush, who first experienced live theatre at the Empire as a child growing up in Toowoomba.
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