Iconic Live Venue To Be Sold As "Development Site"

22 July 2022 | 9:00 am | Stephen Green

"(The) sale of the building would mean the loss of a timeless piece of Australian performing arts history"

The iconic Brisbane Arts Theatre space is on the chopping block with COVID dealing another massive blow to the city's arts sector. Currently listed with Ray White, the 86 year old Petrie Terrace playhouse has been a breeding ground for actors, musicians and theatre technicians for generations, before being hit by the pandemic. Being one of the few arts organisations that were self-funded, the ordinarily successful not-for-profit was left in a COVID financial hole with the expenses of owning a property soaring but the income from shows decimated. 

Brisbane Arts Theatre President Tallulah Grey said that with no help from state or federal government for COVID recovery, the writing was on the wall for the organisation. 

"The COVID pandemic has had a significant negative effect on our revenue over the past two years, and unfortunately we are getting closer to the time where we will no longer have the financial resources to continue. It’s a heartbreaking and very difficult decision, but we believe it’s the best way to ensure that Brisbane Arts Theatre as a company can continue to provide the excellent education programs we’ve been producing for the past few decades."

Grey said it has been a great last decade of achievement for the company in the theatre space and that the organisation hopes to thrive into the future, wherever they land. 

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

"The thing I’m most proud of is being able to watch the students in our youth programs grow and flourish in our classes. I think the best time I’ve had personally since I started seeing shows at Brisbane Arts Theatre in 2005 was being able to be a part of Much Ado About Nuthink earlier this year. This was a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic, adapted and directed by my father, who is one of the Arts Theatre’s tutors. It was a magnificent experience with a huge cast of students, theatre alumni, and new faces, and it was definitely a show to remember."

The organisation is hoping to lease the venue back from new owners while the future of the site is decided, with the agent Michael McCullagh suggesting that some potential buyers have expressed interest in reflecting 'some element' of the site's history, although also notes that the site which has over 60m of key street frontage and two-street access, has a zoning which could see the site expand to three storeys. The site is also just 800m from the proposed 17,000 seat 'Brisbane Live' project situated at the Roma Street rail yards and being built in time for the 2032 Olympics. 

The theatre's operation over so many decades has seen a devastating fire in the 1960s and rumours of ghosts residing in the stalls, but more importantly has supported new theatre works, children's productions and innovative art both on stage and behind the scenes. The difficult choice to sell the venue will hopefully save the organisation, but another piece of Brisbane's live history will likely come to an end unless a buyer is found who wants to retain the 110 seat grand old lady of Brisbane theatre history. 

Or as RealCommercial.com.au puts it: "Huge potential for capital growth in Brisbane's Near City underpinned by strong fundamentals and demographics."

Expressions of interest in purchasing the property close on August 4