Planning for Princess Theatre works underway

Published on 18 January 2024

princess theatre.jpg

Following a publicly advertised tender process, the City of Launceston is undertaking planning for future upgrades to the functionality and accessibility of one of Launceston's most important cultural facilities, the Princess Theatre and Earl Arts Centre complex.

The heritage-listed Princess Theatre was constructed in 1911 by Marino Lucas, a vaudeville entrepreneur from Melbourne.

For the majority of its life it operated as a cinema and was even managed for a time by the Hoyts cinema chain, which introduced the foyer’s art deco style detailing during renovations in 1939.

The theatre operated as a cinema until it was acquired by the City of Launceston in 1970.

In 1993 the Earl Arts Centre, a black box theatre suited to smaller productions, was added to the theatre precinct.

Managed by Theatre North, the theatre has hosted a range of local, national and international performances throughout its life, but has been limited by ageing front-of-house and back-of-house facilities.

In 2021, the City of Launceston launched a stakeholder engagement process with users of the Princess Theatre and Earl Arts Centre to understand future infrastructure priorities.

In May 2023, the Council advertised a call for architectural tenders for a future-focussed redevelopment of the theatre.

Architectural firm Lovell Chen was ultimately appointed to investigate infrastructure upgrades aimed at improving accessibility and functionality in front-of-house and backstage spaces.

Lovell Chen has previously worked on similar projects involving Victoria's Regent Theatre, Princess Theatre, Athenaeum Theatre, and Palais Theatre.

Lovell Chen will be assisted by internationally recognised theatre consultant Schuler Shook.

City of Launceston Mayor Matthew Garwood said the planning would prioritise the backstage, performance, box office, front-of-house and other public-facing areas in the Princess Theatre, along with the Earl Arts Centre.

"The Princess Theatre was constructed more than 100 years ago and there are a range of opportunities to make the foyers and backstage areas more functional, accessible and welcoming," Mayor Garwood said.

"For example, there is currently no lift in the facility, which creates a range of accessibility and logistical challenges for patrons, Theatre North staff, performers and production staff.

"The work Lovell Chen will undertake will be about identifying a future plan to ensure the theatres remain fit for purpose into the future."

Theatre North General Manager Amanda Shepherd said the project was ultimately aimed at providing Princess Theatre and Earl Arts Centre patrons, performers and staff with an improved user experience.

"The Princess is one of the city's most loved cultural assets and has served us well for more than a century," Ms Shepherd said.

"Fond memories of times spent at the Princess and the Earl span several generations.

"It is exciting to know that even more people will soon be able to enjoy these spaces thanks to the City of Launceston.

"We're thrilled to see Lovell Chen working on this project, given their proven track record and experience with similar theatres on the mainland.

"Any future construction works are likely to have an impact on productions, so we'll be working with the City of Launceston to ensure all our theatre stakeholders are well informed about the implications from the earliest possible time.

"This is a significant step for the Princess Theatre and Earl Arts Centre, and we look forward to seeing the theatres given a new lease on life for generations to come."