The State Theatre opened on the 7th of June 1929. The Theatre was the vision of Stuart Doyle, owner of Union Theatres and the esteemed architect Henry White. It was to be seen as “The Empire’s Greatest Theatre” and was designed as a picture palace when such monuments to movies were at their grandest and most spectacular.
During its first week patrons were offered “entertainment of unparalleled magnificence”.
The opening night’s performance featured noted bandleader Will Prior who was described in the programme as a conductor capable of lifting “jazz to perfection in a sublime miscellany of melodious rhythm”.
The first of countless motion pictures to be shown at the State Theatre was “The Patriot” accompanied by Price Dunlavy billed as a “debonair genius” playing the mighty Wurlitzer organ.
Other attractions included Australia’s leading soprano Rene Maxwell & the State Beauty Ballet billed as “a beauty bevy with amazing ability”.
The stage was now set for countless performers & films to transport and entertain literally millions of future customers.
After providing an outlet and a venue for entertainment during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the next decade saw the spectre of World War return.
Leading up to and during the war, patrons were able to view the latest news via the theatre’s regular screenings of the Movietone news-reels.
The State played its part by continuing to provide an escape for all those directly and indirectly involved in the conflict. They thrilled to golden celluloid stars such as Cary Grant , Ronald Colman and Joan Crawford.
Post 1945 , the State once again became the place where Sydneysiders came to play.
This decade saw the dawning of Australia’s multicultural society with the first wave of post war immigration. Increasing affluence and economic stability fuelled the rapid expansion of new outer lying suburbs and helped to create the so-called “baby-boom” generation.
As television was far from an everyday reality, people lived for live & film entertainment and the State was the place to be.
A new generation of Hollywood and local stars had arisen during this decade. Film attractions appearing in this decade included James Stewart in “Bend of the River” and Virginia McKenna staring in an adaptation of Neville Shute classic book “A Town Like Alice”.
The 1960’s saw Australia in a period of radical change reflected in the growth of pop culture and increasing opposition to the Vietnam conflict, which mirrored social upheaval around the globe.
In times of change, people often look to entertainment as a release and again the State Theatre provided the outlet.
The changing times are reflected in the films on offer which in 1960 included Yul Bryner in “Once More with Feeling” whilst by 1969 the sexual farce “Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happines” was being shown.
The growing of permissiveness in 1970’s Australian society and the rejection of more “traditional” values is seen in the anti censorship demonstrations surrounding the film “Medium Cool”.
In 1974, the State Theatre became the home of the prestigious Sydney Film Festival and has continued to play host to this event for two weeks in June, each subsequent year.
In terms of film entertainment, the advent of television during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s saw film-makers turn towards the Hollywood “blockbuster” as a means of returning lost patrons to the cinema. Such films included blockbusters like “The Godfather” and 0″Jaws”, but a low budget horror movie “Count Yorga Vampire” was also a huge hit to the extent that, as one newspaper reported, police had to be brought in to control the crowds in Market Street.
The 1980s are often described as an unremarkable decade, best remembered for the Rubik’s Cube and the rise of arcade games.
It was however a time of great change for the State Theatre. After a magnificent restoration of its facilities, the State reopened in 1980 with Bette Midler starring in the concert film “Divine Madness”. Two years earlier the “Divine Ms M” had in person, enjoyed a series of triumphant live concerts at the theatre. On the screen, “E.T.- The Extra-Terrestrial”, came to earth in 1982 and made a home at the State.
This decade saw the State Theatre return to its more traditional roots with numerous live acts & musical theatre performances gracing its doors.
Like many cities, Sydney has lost many historic live music venues as the property developers moved in and converted them to new commercial and residential uses. However the State Theatre continued to be amongst the leading venues, this position was reinforced with additional renovations undertaken in the early 1990s.
Performers in this period included Shirley Bassey, Whoopi Goldberg, Rudolph Nureyev, Harry Connick Jnr. Full theatrical runs were undertaken with stage musicals such as Evita, The Secret Garden and Anything Goes.
The State Theatre has long been at the forefront of Sydney’s artistic and cultural life, the theatre is also responding to the changing needs and demands of its commercial patrons.
At the State Theatre we are totally committed to providing the highest level of service, style and entertainment to all theatre patrons across the broadest possible range of theatrical presentation.
The Noughties brought us some of the world’s biggest acts to the State Theatre stage such as Cyndi Lauper, Lenny Henry, Julio Iglesias, Tim Minchin and Tori Amos to name a few.
From dance to drama, music to movies we look forward to another glorious decade of entertaining Sydney in style.
Since 2010 we have hosted large corporate events for some of Australia’s largest and well known brands.
We have hosted red carpet premieres for “Game of Thrones”, “Skyfall”, “Unbroken”, “Les Miserables”, “Django Unchained” and we continue to be the proud host of the Sydney Film Festival every year.
We have presented traditional English pantos with “Snow White”, “Aladdin” and “Cinderella”.
World class musical acts to grace our stage have included Prince, Chris Isaak, The Seekers, Tina Arena, Arj Barker, Air Supply, Cyndi Lauper, Florence and the Machine, John Legend, Julie Andrews, Dawn French, Chris Rock and James Blunt to name a few.