Brisbane Silent Movie Theatre Finds New Purpose as Hillsong Theatre Opens

Photo Credit: Hillsong Brisbane Downtown / Facebook

The former Lyceum Theatre, the first purpose-built silent movie theatre in Brisbane, is now called Hillsong Theatre, the new home of Megachurch Hillsong.

Hillsong Church officially opened its new home in Brisbane’s CBD, in December 2018, at the iconic site on George Street. Before the takeover, the movie theatre, unused since 2011, underwent much needed renovations.
In April 2018, Hillsong Church announced that it will renovate the cinema “with the original look and feel in mind, and will retain a lot of the venue’s iconic features.”

“The church has outgrown many venues, after holding services in Brisbane City for four years, and it would be wonderful for it to have a permanent place,” said Pastor of Hillsong Queensland Steve Dixon. Across Queensland, Hillsong Church has seven campuses at Mt Gravatt, Downtown, Springfield Lakes, Gold Coast, and Sunshine Coast.

Photo Credit: Bathing Franky / Facebook

From April 2018 until its opening in late 2018, renovation works on the theatre kept as many of the original features intact as possible, such as the false balconies in the walls as well as restoring its original generator. What used to be a bright red exterior now sports a black colour with “Hillsong Theatre” replacing the old “Tribal” signage.

Photo Credit: Friends of the Lyceum Theatre / Facebook

Opened in 1906, the former Lyceum Theatre was Brisbane’s first permanent picture theatre. Its ownership changed hands, gone through transformations, and name change several times throughout its history.

Photo Credit: Friends of the Lyceum Theatre / Facebook

In the 1920s, the movie theatre was renamed Elite Theatre. In 1965, it was rebuilt and renamed as the George Cinema. The foyer features Roman-style statues and urns, and the auditorium had an Italian Renaissance design.

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Photo Credit: Friends of the Lyceum Theatre / Facebook

The Dendy Cinemas took over in 1994, turned it into 250- and 216-seating twin theatres, and operated it until 2008. The cinema was revived again by an independent operator in 2010 as the Tribal Theatre, showcasing arthouse, cult, short, and classic films at a cheaper price compared to other mega cinemas. Before it closed, the Tribal Theatre hosted the Brisbane International Film Festival in November 2011.

Despite efforts from the community, such as that from the “Friends of the Lyceum Theatre”, to relaunch and heritage-list the Lyceum Theatre, confirmation of Hillsong’s plans to turn it into a place of worship surfaced in 2017.

The Hillsong Theatre made its official opening last 21 December; and in keeping with their tradition, Hillsong Church will hold Friday night services in their new Brisbane CBD home.