Town Hall, minister backs campaign to save Theatre Royal

The theatre’s ongoing closure, they say, points to Sydney’s lack of centrally located theatre venues to house international touring productions such as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which went to Melbourne’s Princess Theatre.

Sydney's MLC Centre

Sydney’s MLC CentreCredit:Edwina Pickles

Lord Mayor Clover Moore has met with representatives of the lobby group and given them her full support. She had also met with Arts Minister Don Harwin on September 24.

In 1972 thousands of people rallied at the Town Hall for the theatre, which had operated from that site since 1875, to be saved. There were green bans, marches and the issue was raised in Federal Parliament.

In exchange for saving the theatre, Lend Lease was given up to 8000 sqm of extra commercial office space or close to six additional floors as compensation, the lobby group says, estimating the extra value to owners and shareholders as worth between $9 million and $11 million in commercial office rent per year.

In the intervening time, the LPA calculates the extra value of additional floor space accruing to the owners to be between $182 million and $220 million.

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”In good faith, I encourage the current owners Dexus and GPT Group to commit to re-opening the theatre,” Ms Moore said.

“It is vital that we have theatre spaces in the heart of the Sydney CBD. Without sufficient theatres, there is a real risk that Sydney audiences will be denied seeing the best of live theatre from Australia and overseas and our talented performers will be denied opportunities to make a living and further their careers.

”Theatres benefit everyone, through their contribution to our cultural life and nightlife and the economic benefits from increased employment and tourism.”

Mr Harwin said it was the government’s ”preference” that the Theatre Royal be reopened: ”Ultimately it is a matter for the owners but there would be delighted public if shows returned to the Theatre Royal. There would also be a huge boost to Sydney’s visitor economy.”

The co-owners may not have a legal requirement to reopen the theatre but they certainly had a moral obligation to Sydney to keep that open, the Lord Mayor said.

”They have had the benefit of Sydney’s airspace for some 30 years and continue to have that ongoing financial benefit, Sydney needs to have the benefit of the theatre, they should honor that deal.”

A spokesperson for the owners said they were ”reviewing options to enhance the asset, including the Theatre Royal”. ”We plan to provide an update on the development, including the theatre space, in late 2018.”

The theatre-going public has been urged to sign an online petition calling on the owners to reopen the Theatre.

Linda Morris is an arts and books writer for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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