For 40 years, the Pilbeam Theatre has been at the forefront of this region’s performing arts and live entertainment, providing a venue for local, national and international shows.
It all began on 6 June 1979 when the venue was officially opened by the Governor General of Australia, Sir Zelman Cowen. Following the opening there were nine days of celebratory performances by local and touring companies including the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Queensland Ballet, Rockhampton Little Theatre, Rockhampton Youth Orchestra, Rockhampton Brass and Pipe Bands and local dance schools.
The Council-owned and operated Pilbeam Theatre replaced the Municipal Theatre which stood on the site of the current Rockhampton Library. The Municipal Theatre provided a limited venue for performances since it opened in 1964 and by the mid 1970s it was becoming obvious that in order to attract large scale international entertainment acts, a new venue would need to be built. At the same time, other Councils in regional Queensland were planning similar sized venues in their cities.
Local firm Neil McKendry Architects was engaged to design the building, which was built, along with the Art Gallery, at a combined cost of $3.5M, according to newspaper reports of the day.
Within the first few years of operation, the Pilbeam Theatre had hosted performances by international artists and shows including the Compagnie Philippe Genty, George and Mildred, Ertha Kitt, Galapagos Duck, The Platters, Jon English, Peter Allen, The Rocky Horror Show, Spike Milligan, Charlie Pride, Dick Emery, Ronricco, Slim Dusty, The Black and White Minstrel Show and Harry Secombe. It also hosted regular performances by local groups including the Rockhampton Musical Union Choir, Rockhampton Little Theatre and Beverley Prange Academy of Dance.
The theatre continues to be a vibrant centre of the performing arts, with recent figures showing the box office sells more than 61,000 tickets annually with a value of more than $1.8 million.