The 1400-seat Empire Theatre opened in 1952 and was later renamed State Theatre in 1959. It hosted top international musicians but a rising middle class in the 1970s prompted other forms of entertainment to rise. The theatre suffered a fire in 1995 and closed for good in 1997, only to reopen 2 years later as a snooker parlour. Since then, it has been featured on the news repeatedly under fears of demolition, only to become a Grade 1 historic building in 2016.
Local property developer New World Development has purchased the site, which includes the theatre, shopping mall, and residential tower, and has pledged to preserve its history.
Most stores facing the street have closed already when I visited in late November.
With dark abandoned corridors and empty shopfronts, the site has attracted explorers and historians who recalled far better days when this shopping mall was the place to be seen.
Only 1 of the south tower's 2 elevators are operational to access the residential floors above. Strangely, the 4th floor is always selected and the elevator will always stop there on the way up or down. Most residents have already moved out and their units barricaded. I went up to the 9th floor to see the theatre's unique roof arches.