Heritage and architecture groups urged the Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB) to make North Point’s former State Theatre a Grade 1 historic building on Friday.

A heritage value assessment attached to a statement by Walk In Hong Kong, argued that the cultural and architectural significance of the building was reason enough for the Antiquities Advisory Board to increase its current Grade 3 rating. The roof structure of the former State Theatre towers were cited as an example of the building’s architectural significance, described as a leading example of Modern Movement architecture.

The State Theatre Complex. Photo: Wikicommons.

“Indisputably an architectural gem both locally and worldwide, if this forgotten post-war wonder can be imaginatively transformed, it surely has the potential to develop into a tourism highlight and a cultural landmark that Hong Kong people can be proud of. Any self-respecting city should know where its soft power lies,” the statement read.

‘Risk of demolition’ 

The statement also argued that giving the building a Grade 1 was of utmost urgency given fears of demolition.

“We are aware that a consortium has been progressively buying out flats and shop spaces in the State Theatre complex, and this puts the former theatre at risk of demolition… We want the government to demonstrate to the public that they have the determination, energy and ability to preserve Hong Kong heritage, so that the highly valuable former State Theatre can be preserved.”

Walk In Hong Kong, The Conservancy Association, and Docomomo HK also asked to meet with the AAB in order to pass on the views of the public. The AAB will meet on Monday to discuss this issue further, Ming Pao reported.

The joint statement was made by Walk In Hong Kong, The Conservancy Association, and Docomomo HK.

The Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) had earlier recommended that the building be given a Grade 3 historic building grade, defined as: “Buildings of some merit; preservation in some form would be desirable and alternative means could be considered if preservation is not practicable.” Grade 1 historic buildings are classified as “Buildings of outstanding merit, which every effort should be made to preserve if possible.”

The State Theatre was opened in 1952 as a cinema which featured local and foreign works ranging from Cantonese opera to classical music. As the oldest post war theatre left in Hong Kong, the theatre has been a notable mainstay in Hong Kong cinema since its establishment, especially during the heyday of Hong Kong cinema in the 70’s and 80’s. The theatre closed in 1997 and was replaced by a billiards hall.

Isaac Cheung

Isaac Cheung is pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism and Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong. During the Occupy Central protests, Isaac worked as an editor and reporter at LIVE: Verified Updates, a bilingual news page founded and maintained by HKU journalism students. He has also worked at Coconuts Hong Kong as a reporter.