Cultural heritage group Walk in Hong Kong, The Conservancy Association and Docomomo HK today (15 April) issued a joint statement to the Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB), urging them to give the former State Theatre in North Point no lower than a Grade 1 historic building grading.
文化企業活現香港、長春社以及Docomomo HK （國際現代建築文獻組織香港分會）今天（4月15 日）發表聯合聲明，促請古物諮詢委員會（古諮會）將北角舊皇都戲院，至少評為一級歷史建築。
Docomomo International於今年3月23日發出「文物危急警示」，要求避免清拆。撰寫報告的德國Zittau/Görlitz University教授Jos Tomlow，形容舊皇都戲院為全球獨一無二﹕「這幢建築是戰後現代主義建築中具代表性重要例子，其具極高的價值，乃在於屋頂獨特的結構，出色地採用了呈拋物線型的混凝土桁架設計，是全球戲院建築中的唯一案例。」
舊皇都戲院及1959年易名前的璇宮戲院將頂尖的西方文化藝術、電影、粵劇及亞洲歌舞表演帶給大眾，是香港重要文化地標之一。曾放映的著名西方電影包括《沙漠梟雄》(1965)及《仙樂飄飄處處聞》(1966)；1969年更舉辦香港首個日本電影節。繼後以播放港產片為主，包括膾炙人口的《半斤八兩》(1976)及多部著名的成龍電影，可謂締造了港產片在七、八十年代的黃金歲月。其在文藝界的威水史則包括曾上演過英國著名男高音Peter Pears及20世紀古典音樂殿堂級作曲家Benjamin Britten的演奏會，港督葛量洪更是該演奏會的榮譽贊助人；傳統戲曲方面則有嚴許頌輝夫人主演的京劇及由「大龍鳳劇團」的麥炳榮及鳳凰女主演的粵劇；最令人津津樂道的演出，可算是1970年隨台灣歌舞團來登台的歌后鄧麗君。
綜觀世界各大城市，都有成功將舊式戲院保育、活化、甚至還原用途的例子﹕馬來西亞檳城的善佑戲院(1926年)、新加坡的Capitol Theatre（1930年）及緬甸仰光的Waziya Cinema（1920年代；保育項目將會展開）等等，可見把舊式戲院翻新在亞太區已成潮流。城市發展是正常的，但這些例子均顯示了發展與保育其實是可以並存，讓有文化價值的建築得以延續及承傳。舊皇都戲院雄踞英皇道，其頂部的巨型桁架有型有格，像一件大型都市藝術品。香港擁有一道如此獨特和具時代魅力的街道風景，是一種軟實力。若這座被違忘的戰後奇葩能來一次二十一世紀的華麗變身，絕對有條件成為一個能令香港人自豪的旅遊景點及文化地標。
發展局局長陳茂波先生, MH, JP
 Docomomo HK為Docomomo International的本地分會。Docomomo International全名為 International Committee for Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites and Neighbourhoods of the Modern Movement，是專責記錄與保護現代建築的國際非牟利組織。
All Antiquities Advisory Board members
Antiquities and Monuments Office Executive Secretary Ms Susanna Siu
Commissioner for Heritage Mr José Yam
Secretary for Development Mr Paul Chan Mo-po, MH, JP
All Eastern District Council members
15 April 2016
Joint statement by Walk in Hong Kong, The Conservancy Association and Docomomo HK to the Antiquities Advisory Board – The former State Theatre deserves no lower than a Grade 1 historic building grading
Cultural heritage group Walk in Hong Kong, The Conservancy Association and Docomomo HK today issued a joint statement to the Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB), urging them to give the former State Theatre in North Point no lower than a Grade 1 historic building grading.
Walk in Hong Kong has written a Heritage Value Assessment of the Former State Theatre, which puts forward compelling evidence to establish the conservation value of the theatre. As the AAB are about to grade the building, we take this opportunity to present the uniqueness and irreplaceable value of the former State Theatre for the due consideration of both the board and the Antiquities and Monuments Office.
1. Global heritage watchdog issues ‘Heritage in danger’ alert for the internationally unique former State Theatre
Docomomo International issued on 23 March 2016 a ‘Heritage in danger’ alert for the theatre, urging that any plan there may be to demolish the building must be reconsidered. Professor Jos Tomlow of Zittau/Görlitz University in Germany assessed the building for Docomomo International. He calls the former State Theatre an internationally unique piece of architecture: “This representative example of Modern Movement architecture is exceptionally valuable because of its singular roof construction. The remarkable use of “parabola-like” concrete arches rising over the building is unique for a theatre in the entire world.”
2. The theatre witnessed the heyday of Hong Kong cinema
The former State Theatre, together with Empire Theatre, which was how the venue was known when it opened in 1952, entertained the public with a scintillating mix of classical music performances, local and foreign cinema, Cantonese opera, as well as regional dance and music troupes. The theatre was a major cultural landmark in Hong Kong. Classic movies shown there include Lawrence of Arabia (1965) and Sound of Music (1966). In 1969, the theatre hosted Hong Kong’s first Japanese film festival. In the years that followed, Hong Kong movies became the mainstay at State. These include blockbusters such as the local comedy classic The Private Eyes (1976) and a host of Jackie Chan films. The former State Theatre was very much part of the heyday of Hong Kong cinema in the 1970s and 1980s.
Earlier when the theatre was known as Empire, it attracted what might be described as high-end cultural arts to Hong Kong. Stage shows by international performers include the renowned British tenor Peter Pears and the legendary British composer Benjamin Britten, and Governor Sir Alexander Grantham was the patron of this particular celebrity recital in 1956. In terms of Cantonese opera, Dai Lung Fung (huge dragon phoenix) troupe was a well-known box-office winner at State. But the most famous artist to have ever graced the stage of State must surely be the Taiwanese pop superstar Teresa Teng, who performed there at the tender age of 17 in 1970.
3. Precious collective memories from post-war Hong Kong
Before the advent of television and home entertainment, cinema was king. Going to the movies was the most popular form of mass entertainment in post-war Hong Kong. There used to be huge cinemas all over Hong Kong yet, practically every single one of these important ‘landmarks of the people’ between the 1950s and 1980s has gone, save for the former State Theatre. The social and historical value of this veritable Hong Kong treasure is thus exceptionally high.
4. The oldest post-war stand-alone theatre in Hong Kong
Built in 1952, the former State Theatre is a stand-alone theatre structure. It is the oldest post-war theatre in Hong Kong, and the oldest theatre on Hong Kong Island.
5. Conservation of old theatres is a worldwide trend
Across the world, we see old theatres that have been or are being restored, revitalised or reborn as performance venues or cinemas. Recent regional examples include Penang’s Majestic Theatre (1926), Singapore’s Capitol Theatre (1930) and Yangon’s Waziya Cinema (1920s). Development is central to a city’s evolution, yet the theatre restoration cases from Southeast Asia show that development and heritage conservation can go hand in hand, allowing the legacy of culturally valuable architecture to be preserved.
The spectacular roof structure of the former State Theatre towers over King’s Road like a giant public art installation. A highly-distinctive icon in Hong Kong’s cityscape, it captures the buoyancy of a past era, and there is no reason why it cannot belong to the future too. 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 arguments we presented above are ample proof that the former State Theatre is a leading example of Modern Movement architecture in Hong Kong. The architectural style and construction technology that it pioneered is one of a kind in Hong Kong as well as in the whole of Asia. Add the theatre’s high social and historical value to its exemplary architectural rarity, one can only make a strong case for it to be preserved and revitalised.
Proper grading urgently needed as buyout continues
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 appreciate that the preservation of privately-owned historic buildings is very challenging, yet we also urge the authorities to proactively look for a win-win solution with the owners. 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.
We would also appreciate a face-to-face meeting with all AAB members, so that they can hear the views of the public, as they decide on a grading that we hope would do justice to the sheer heritage value of the theatre.
Based on our comprehensive assessment of the heritage value of the former State Theatre, we consider that it should be given no lower than a Grade 1 historic building grading.
 Docomomo HK is the local chapter of Docomomo International, which is short for the International Committee for Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites and Neighbourhoods of the Modern Movement.
 The assessment is in Chinese.