Built in 1927 next to the corner of South and Henley Beach roads, the theatre was listed on the SA Heritage Register in 1982, and recently underwent costly renovations which highlighted its period interior features.
Known to generations of music fans as “Thebby”, the privately-run venue holds 2000 and has for decades been a favourite, more intimate venue for bands and audiences than larger, impersonal sites such as the Entertainment Centre.
Hundreds of touring bands have played there, including the Clash, Dead Kennedys, Ramones, Nirvana, Stooges, Motorhead, Metallica, Lou Reed, Beastie Boys, R.E.M and the Kinks.
It was inducted into the SA Music Hall of Fame last year.
But the theatre’s future is under a cloud, with the State Government refusing to rule out that it might be bought and bulldozed to make way for the next stage of the South Rd upgrade, which will see many buildings along the route aquired and demolished.
Other notable buildings nearby include the former Thebarton council chamber, and Queen of Angels Church.
A petition began circulating on social media yesterday, rallying supporters to save the “holy grail of music venues to Adelaide live music lovers”.
“Many live music venues have been demolished over the years and we are saying ‘Hands Off Thebbie Theatre’,” it says.
“The destruction of this iconic landmark threatens the live music industry in this state.
“The question needs to be asked – Steven Marshall MP, where will a band that wants to play to 2000 play now?”
Heritage and acting Transport Minister David Speirs told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that planning for the next stage of the upgrade, from Tonsley to the Torrens, was in its early stages and no demolition decisions had been made.
“When you are talking about a major project like this and the need to acquire land … it certainly won’t be ignored, iconic buildings such as the Thebarton Theatre cannot be ignored as part of the planning,” he said.
“As the Heritage Minister, as the Acting Transport Minister, I’ll certainly be talking to my colleagues about the importance of doing our best to protect those buildings.
“I’m not going to rule anything in or out this morning, but I acknowledge that there are a lot of people in South Australia who have an affection for that building and others along that route.”
Speirs said various options were being considered.
“There’s three models on the table, two of them including a lot of tunnelling,” he said.
“That would see a lot less buildings acquired, still would have to acquire some buildings but far less and so it’s very early days, we are working through it with the experts, the engineers and also as was clear on the weekend, in the media, talking to members of the community and letting them know what’s on the table here and what the options are.”
But when pressed on if he could guarantee Thebarton Theatre would still stand in years to come, he could not: “No, I can’t rule it in or out, it has to be mapped through the planning process… this is extremely early days, this is a huge project … the process is ongoing, lots of consultation, lots of design work has to be undertaken, it’s very early days.”
SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo said Premier and Arts Minister Steven Marshall had “a social responsibility to the people of South Australia to protect and preserve rich parts of this state’s cultural history”.
“I call on Premier Marshall to today step in and make a decision that guarantees the long-term future of this iconic landmark,” he said.
“From a music and entertainment perspective, there is nothing that comes close to ticking those boxes than Thebby Theatre,” he said.
“Before the Adelaide Festival Theatre or the Adelaide Entertainment Centre, the Thebby was the entertainment venue in Adelaide.
He said to not rule out demolition – despite its longstanding heritage listing – was “outrageously arrogant”, and destroying it would provoke public anger.
Pangallo said the theatre, municipal hall and Queens of Angels church were of “of enormous heritage and cultural value to people of the western suburbs”.
“To many, they are considered sacred sites that must not be touched by bulldozers,” he said.
InDaily attempted to contact Thebarton Theatre operator Weslo Holdings, but did not receive a response before deadline.
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