Momentum Growing for New CBD Theatre

Artist's impression of Foundation Theatres Concept
Concept impression of Foundation Theatres market led proposal. Source: Courier Mail

Demand for a new 2000 seat theatre continues to grow as a new market led proposal is being looked at by the Queensland Government.

One of the potential theatre sites that is being considered is the old State Library site, part of the $3 billion Queen’s Wharf Integrated Resort Development.

Currently, QPAC is the busiest and most profitable theatre complex in Australia. Unlike other cities, Brisbane only has one 2000 seat threatre which is large enough to hold major musical productions.

QPAC is now fully booked out for the next five years, with the theatre knocking back seasons of major musicals, which is also being felt in Sydney and Melbourne.

Graeme Kearns, the General Manager of Foundation Theatres which owns Sydney Lyric and Capitol Theatres told Stage Whispers that not only does Brisbane miss out, but the logjam also affects the whole of Australia.

“Tours are not viable if they don’t play the big theatres on the east coast. Brisbane has become such an important part of the touring circuit, as seasons there are running longer,” he said.

Foundation Entertainment have acquired the right to develop a new theatre where the old State Library sits opposite Queen’s Park, looking over the Brisbane River.

“It is a beautiful heritage site. We’d keep all the features of the 1960’s library,” he said.

But inside would be a sister theatre to the Lyric in Sydney, plus a 500 seat black box theatre.

Artist's impression of Truscott Theatre. Source: Stage Whispers
Artist’s impression of Truscott Theatre. Source: Stage Whispers

“We think our site is best. Anything less than 2000 seats would be a mistake.”

In terms of funding, the theatre would cost around $100 million, with $75 million coming from Foundation Entertainment, and the remaining coming from the government.

Meanwhile, the head of Disney’s Global Theatrical Productions Thomas Schumacher has thrown his support behind the proposal, telling the Courier Mail that Brisbane was an important market and needed a major new theatre for big shows.

“For all of us who bring shows here … me, Cameron Mackintosh, Andrew Lloyd Webber, all of us would love to see another venue,” Schumacher said.

“Whether it’s civic or private is not my concern but there is a market here and sales are strong. The economic impact of live theatre and live performing arts for any community is large.”

According to the very original Queen’s Wharf Bid design, the old State Library was to include a new cafe, commercial space and information centre.

Original bid document diagram showing the old State Library building
Original bid document diagram showing the old State Library building

In the detailed development application documents, the exact use of the state library building is not confirmed.

It is intended that the building will be re-used for a variety of potential uses, including community use, office, shop, food and drink outlet, and other retail uses.

The PoD specifies a maximum GFA of 3,800m2 for Sub-Precinct 2c and this GFA includes potential residential, commercial and retail uses. Uses may be included within the existing heritage building’s structure, as well as potential external dining areas located in or directly adjacent to the public realm.

A government spokesman told the Courier Mail that the government is aware that there is a need for a second theatre and that it is exploring options.

“We can’t say anything further now because it is going through the market led proposal process,” the spokesperson said.


  1. This would really activate that part of the city at night. Southbank is so lively at night because of theatre crowds going out afterwards, this could do the same for the CBD.

  2. Can we please have a proper architectural competition for this site, to prevent a repeat of the queens wharf debacle that we now have to live with (ie: the Government picking between merely TWO not-so-inspiring schemes). I realise (I hope!) this design is just a sketchy example of massing, but it is so insensitive to the old building it looks like the heritage facade is being literally consumed by a glass blob. Its a case of the architect appearing ‘burdened’ by the old facade, rather than inspired by it. A huge theatre really belongs at a empty site, Parmelat, perhaps? Maybe a smaller music venue at the Library, which would encourage the Youth back into the city centre. The Roma Street entertainment precinct is simply brilliant and I hear this is going ahead- do we really have the population to support two massive theatres?

  3. I agree with Sarah, I believe other sites in the city are in more need of development, not next to the overdeveloped (and frankly tacky) casino site. Why not something in Petrie Tce, Paddington, Milton, Toowong, Kurilpa waterfront, the Gabba, literally anywhere on a major transit link thats not the CBD? This would increase the property values in those areas (as this is a unique venue) and would add to neighbouring retail and hospitality businesses. Poor planning, poor design (looks like a bloated glass cyst floating over a rather stately heritage building), and poor use; but an excellent idea for our city: more arts and culture!


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