Ahead of the upcoming state budget, the Queensland Government has confirmed funding for a new theatre at QPAC. With Brisbane audiences turning out to theatre, ballet and music performances in record numbers, the new theatre will ensure QPAC can continue to support our local arts companies and attract more blockbuster productions.
QPAC is Australia’s busiest theatre complex, and it’s about to get busier. More than 1,000 performances are held in its theatres each year, attracting 1.3 million visitors. The addition of an extra theatre will ease its current growing pains and increase audience numbers by 300,000 annually.
The government has confirmed $125 million in funding for the new theatre, which will be constructed on the Playhouse Green and is expected to open in 2022. When it’s finished, the theatre will hold somewhere between 1,500 and 1,700 people. By way of comparison, the Lyric Theatre currently has a capacity of 2,000.
So why do we need the extra space? QPAC is almost at capacity in all of its theatres (Lyric Theatre, Playhouse, Cremorne Theatre and Concert Hall). This is in part due to the growth in our own local arts companies. Queensland Ballet alone has seen its audiences increase by 57 percent in the last four years. As a result, the 850-seat Playhouse is now too cosy for the company.
Queensland Ballet isn’t alone in this respect. Queensland Theatre’s list of blockbuster shows is growing – take Ladies in Black as an example, which saw more than 30,000 theatregoers pass through QPAC last year. Opera Queensland is planning to expand its mainstage programming from 2019 onwards. And Queensland Symphony Orchestra is continuing to attract global superstars under the direction of Alondra de la Parra.
The result is a flourishing arts scene with too few seats for audiences. The new theatre will be the home of Queensland Ballet performances, allowing the company to perform for twice as many people in a season.
It will also mean that more touring productions can visit Brisbane when the Lyric is at capacity. Though we do get a good deal of national and international shows, the shortage of local stage space currently means that many large productions are forced to omit Brisbane from their Australian tours (a problem that’s also being experienced in our music venues).
Regional Queenslanders – who now account for 30 percent of QPAC’s attendance numbers – have also been accounted for in the upgrade. The new theatre will feature technology allowing shows to be live streamed to regional Queensland centres.
QPAC opened in Brisbane in 1985, and the addition of this theatre will be its biggest transformation since then. This announcement comes after the government recently committed $5 million in funding for a business case for the proposed Brisbane Live stadium at Roma Street.
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