The iconic State Theatre (皇都戲院) at North Point will soon undergo restoration work. Before it begins, the public has a chance to immerse themselves in the grandeur of the place as New World Development is launching onsite tours on the premises.
The event "Discover the State Theatre in All of Us", curated by Culture for Tomorrow, a non-profit organisation founded by New World Development CEO Adrian Cheng, allows visitors to rediscover the golden age of the State Theatre in the 1950s. At the beginning of the tour, visitors are asked to go to the box office to "select" their seats. After that, they will receive a vintage movie ticket that marks the start of the journey.
They will then be invited to explore stories of the theatre through various activities. For example, they will learn the history of the State Theatre from the days of the Empire Theatre (璇宮戲院), the original name of the place, where international performances were staged. Exhibits and artefacts showcase the design ideas of the building, as its parabolic exoskeleton truss is a unique design that bears witness to the history of North Point once dubbed “Little Shanghai”. Culture for Tomorrow has collected and memorabilia of the State Theatre since three years ago. Over 100 artefacts are displayed in the event to introduce the cultural landscape of the old days, including movie handbills from the 1950s, old tickets of midnight screenings, tickets of balcony and stall seats, staff uniforms, postcards featuring the King’s Road tram station, and an aerial photo of the old North Point.
In addition, visitors can also review the sales brochure of the State Theatre building and the 1970s movie posters painted by the local poster master Yuen Tai-yung. Rare movie posters and excerpts from the late international superstar Bruce Lee’s posthumous work Game of Death in 1978 are displayed too.
“I hope the public will experience the glorious past of the State Theatre first hand through this immersive event. Its history may have faded through time, but its story is far from over," commented Cheng.
The event also helps visitors to rediscover old Hong Kong in innovative new ways. A group of young artists is involved including poster painter Lam Ka-hang, who created a series of movie posters featuring the historical and cultural elements of the State Theatre. Young calligrapher Sam Chan designed an impromptu creation on the iron gate of the theatre, injecting his emotions towards the theatre into his calligraphy with reference to the old movies.
Meanwhile, veteran music critic Wong Chi-chung also shares his memories of the theatre at the William Music record store, a popular spot in the theatre's shopping arcade previously. He also prepares a nostalgic song list on KKBOX, including a number of popular local songs that were known in every household.
"With our conservation project, the State Theatre will return once again as a culture and arts landmark with more riveting stories to tell. As we continue our mission to connect business success with social progress, this marks an important chapter for New World Development, in which we orchestrate creativity and social innovation to create a cultural oasis for our next generation," Cheng added.
The Empire Theatre opened in 1952 but closed after just five years. In 1959, the venue reopened as the State Theatre following extensive renovations. A conservation project to restore this Grade I historic site was announced last year and it is expected that the project will complete by 2026.