THERE'S THE Sydney Opera House, then there's the State Theatre. The what theater?
Tucked away inconspicuously amidst Market Street's plethora of shopping malls and department stores is an old, boarded-up building with construction noise so loud, it was repulsive. Of course they stopped for the tour. But lo and behold! The noise would have been worth the bearing with such eclectic magnificence inside the old theater walls.
Built in the late 1920's in Gothic, Italian and Art deco style, the State Theatre was intended for screening talkies as one of the largest and most lavish cinemas in Sydney. Its grand auditorium originally seated up to three thousand patrons and is crowned by a Koh-i-Noor cut crystal chandelier, the world's second largest chandelier with weight of over 4 tonnes.
Various themed rooms surround the theater's auditorium, decorated accordingly for ladies or gents to gather or smoke in. Of the entire theater, these rooms have experienced the worst decline in condition, having through the decades lost many of their original furnishings to theft or neglect, all while having been countless times re-painted and re-decorated with historical inaccuracy.
At present, much is being done to restore the theater to its original condition. Expansion is also in the works to accommodate currently nonexistent wings to the right of the stage, as well as a larger backstage area and an area for dressing rooms.
Though used mainly as a lyric theater, the State Theatre has not completely discontinued functioning as a cinema, having hosted the Sydney Film Festival every June since 1974.
A gem, indeed, unknown to most tourists. Even some locals.
When thinking of cities and judging by their landmarks, it's good to keep in mind that the interested seeker always has something interesting to find, even amidst the obvious. Beyond Sydney's famous bridge, harbor and sails, fascinating pockets of culture are waiting to be discovered.
Finding them begins with the right state of mind.
State Theatre, Market Street, Sydney. www.statetheatre.com.au Photos by Lady San Pedro.