Cover Adrian Cheng embarks on a new conservation project (Photo: Courtesy of SWKIT)

The conservation project will help preserve the 68-year-old state theatre into a landmark steeped in cinematic culture

Adrian Cheng, the force behind New World Development and Chow Tai Fook and founder of K11 brand, has a new project in sight: conserving Hong Kong's last surviving movie palace. Together with New World Development, the team will be led by British firms, WilkinsonEyre and Purcell, who worked on the restoration of Tai Kwun, while AGC Design, who took part in the revitalisation of Lui Seng Chun will also join.

First opened in 1952, the State Theatre is a Grade I historic site in North Point and is currently the oldest movie palace in the city. Designed by architects Liu Sun-fo and George W. Grey, the 68-year-old theatre played an instrumental role in bringing arts and culture to the public at a time when there was a lack of large-scale cultural event venues. It was the first in Hong Kong to host live world-class theatrical and musical performances featuring renowned tenor Peter Pears and violinist Issac Stern and also held international film screenings.

"Following last year’s launch of our art and design district Victoria Dockside, we are delighted to embark on another transformation project that is historically and architecturally significant to Asia. The State Theatre is one of the last standing cultural icons of Hong Kong and together with our international team, we will do our best to conserve and restore this iconic building to its original glamour and build a cultural oasis that serves the community," said Cheng.

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The 1,300 seat-theatre and 56-foot cinema screen, also had a pivotal role in Hong Kong's booming entertainment industry in the 1970s and 1980s when the city was Asia's movie capital, producing over 300 films per year. The architectural spectacle is exemplary of the post-war Modern movement architecture in the city and features a distinctive curved façade with a relief mural by late contemporary Chinese artist Mei Yutian.

Thanks to the collaboration of both local and international teams, revitalisation of its architecture and conservation of its iconic, parabolic exoskeleton truss will soon be underway, cementing and uplifting its historical and contextual significance to the city's art and culture scene.

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"State Theatre in North Point, Hong Kong is a rare survival from the early post-war years, when performance art was extending its global reach to enrich the culture of ordinary people," said Brian Anderson, Director of Cultural Heritage at Purcell.

Other than the conservation and development plan, the group has also begun to collect relics and memorabilia of the theatre and will initiate a systemic documentation of its oral history. For this, about 100 artefacts related to the State Theatre and North Point has been collected so far including components of the theatre's project, billboard and screening contracts.

The items will be curated and displayed in the future State Theatre which will be open to the public to see and enjoy other cultural activities such as guided heritage and culture tours as part of the conservation project.

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