Victoria Theatre Newcastle: Century Venues says 'major funds' needed to complete $11.5 million restoration

IN THE WORKS: A computer generated concept image of how the finished Victoria Theatre could look.
IN THE WORKS: A computer generated concept image of how the finished Victoria Theatre could look.

The company that plans to re-open Newcastle's historic Victoria Theatre as a performance space said it will need "major additional funding" from government and private sources before the doors open.

Century Venues, which operates Sydney venues including the Enmore and Metro theatres, bought the state heritage listed Perkins Street venue in 2015 and has spent roughly $750,000 stabilising and restoring the neglected theatre.

Consultant Daniel Ballantyne said Century was willing to commit $2 million towards the restoration but a full revival would cost roughly $11.5 million, which "is well beyond a justifiable commercial investment".

"With this in mind, Century is prepared to place the building into a not-for-profit trust to enable pursuit of all potential fundraising opportunities," he said.

"This will also ensure this great cultural asset is protected in perpetuity for the people of Newcastle and the Hunter."

The Victoria Theatre dates back to 1891 and is one of the nation's oldest.

Century Venues plans to revive the 1000-capacity Victoria Theatre as a live performance space.

Enhancements to the existing design include a tiered flat floor, an open foyer, reinstating the balcony over Perkins Street and a new stage tower enclosure.

The full plans will be detailed in a development application the company says will be lodged with City of Newcastle imminently.

Mr Ballantyne said the company remained committed to spending more to restore the building.

"However, for the theatre to become fully operational, it will require major additional funding from both government and private sources committed to realising the vision seen in our development application," he said.

"Once restored, the building will not need ongoing operational subsidy and Century has the experience necessary to operate it as a viable theatre for the people of Newcastle."

Image shows the Victoria Theatre, believed to be snapped in the late 1890s, looking towards Newcastle Harbour. Picture: Newcastle Regional Library

Image shows the Victoria Theatre, believed to be snapped in the late 1890s, looking towards Newcastle Harbour. Picture: Newcastle Regional Library

Century Venues executive director Greg Khoury said the support of the council and a group of Newcastle businesses known as the Victoria Theatre Campaign Cabinet had been vital to the concept's progress.

While he said there was a long way to go before the doors could open, Mr Khoury described the costs of restoration as "incredible value for money" compared to building a new space of similar scale.

"It is low-hanging fruit in terms of returning to use a unique and highly desirable piece of our cultural history, quickly and affordably," he said.

A ticket to the Victoria Theatre Newcastle with the date May 23, 1885.

A ticket to the Victoria Theatre Newcastle with the date May 23, 1885.

Scott Carver Architects were briefed with preserving the fabric of the building while delivering flexibility for patrons and performers.

"We are immensely proud of the final concept they have produced and believe it, beyond question, represents best use for this tremendous cultural asset," Mr Khoury said.

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