08 Sep 2014

Empire Theatres Officially Opens Armitage Centre

After years of planning and preparation, the Empire Theatres and Toowoomba Regional Council are thrilled to unveil the Armitage Centre, the latest addition to the cultural precinct.

The $5.5 million building was named in recognition of prominent businesspeople and major donors to the project Clive and Conchita Armitage. 

This new facility, located behind the existing Empire Church Theatre, includes the Heritage Bank Auditorium, a state of the art ‘black box’ theatre space with fully retractable seating for up to 350 patrons.

When stowed away, the seating reveals 400m2of flat floor space, which serves as a versatile performance and functions venue for up to 575 guests.

Featuring high quality technical equipment and the attractive Hutchie’s Bar, St. Baker Foyer and upper level function space, the Geoffrey Rush Room, the Armitage Centre is a mid-sized venue which will complement the rest of the Empire Theatres precinct. 

Empire Theatres Chairman, Professor Peter Swannell said the seeing the Armitage Centre open it’s doors gave him both personal and professional satisfaction.

“I think we can lay claim to having the best performing arts precinct in regional Australia,” Prof. Swannell said. 

“The Armitage Centre perfectly complements the two existing theatres and greatly enhances the range of theatre experiences that we can provide for the people in the Toowoomba region,” he said.

“Both people and organizations from the region have pledged or donated about $1.7 million towards construction costs. I think we are already seeing the excitement generated by the Centre and this will continue as people see the diversity of hirers who are already lining up to use the venue.

“The Empire Theatre precinct has ‘come of age’ and will have a unique part in the business and leisure life of our community for many, many years to come.”

Empire Theatres Foundation Patron and acclaimed star of stage and screen, Geoffrey Rush has been a keen supporter of the project since its inception and said he was honoured to have the upper level function space named after him.

 “The Empire was the theatre of my childhood where I first saw live performance when I was five, so the accolade you have accorded me is especially sweet,” Mr Rush said.

“A theatre, accessible to the community and particularly its vibrant creative youth, is not only a smart set of bricks and concrete, but a symbol that reflects the area’s irrepressible need to express itself,” he said.

“I became very aware of that when I visited the Empire on my Australian of the Year tour two years ago and was overwhelmed by the passion, the talent and the sheer unshakeable confidence in a performance by several members of the Empire Youth Arts Program.

“A theatre is the essential arena for dreams, ideas, argument and fun. This extension of the Empire, its third house, is bold and positive and forward thinking and I am very proud to be part of its embrace.”

Toowoomba Region Mayor Paul Antonio agreed the building complemented the fine performing arts venues at the Empire Theatres.

“This modern facility will aid the development of young performers and technical staff who wish to pursue careers in the arts. 

“It allows the Empire Theatres, a company owned by TRC, to broaden its impressive performance calendar and will be a valuable asset to the region.

“It is heartening to see the level of community support for the project from regional residents and organisations.

“I also acknowledge the federal government’s funding contribution and thank Regional Development Australia locally for advocating for the project.”

 The construction of the Armitage Centre was assisted through a $2 million Federal Government Regional Development Australia grant together with outstanding community support with in excess of $1.7 million raised for the project.