Initial designs unveiled for King's Theatre redevelopment

Opened in 1906, The King’s Theatre welcomes over 200,000 visitors every year. It is one of a handful of Grade A listed theatres in the UK that has still to have a major redevelopment and is the only surviving operational theatre by the architects Swanston and Davidson. Now 112 years old, the King’s is in need of a major redevelopment to meet the needs of today’s audiences, and today’s performers, and to safeguard it for generations to come. 

We are delighted to share the initial designs from appointed architects Bennetts Associates for the building’s transformation. Bennetts Associates will continue to develop the designs through 2019, with a finalised design ready in 2020.

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How will the King’s change with this redevelopment?

  • The transformation will create a new street level café and bar, accessible directly from Leven Street, along with an exciting new roof top hospitality space, providing spectacular 360-degree views of the City.
  • Installation of lifts and ramps will enable visitors with mobility issues to be able to access all areas of the King’s for the first time.
  • The existing bars and foyers will be overhauled whilst retaining their heritage and charm providing flexible and enjoyable entertainment spaces for pre and post-performance.
  • A brand-new learning studio will be created, providing a much-needed space for community engagement, and educational projects.
  • The stage will be flattened to attract world-class opera and dance so that we can offer a more diverse programme for our audiences. The orchestra pit will be rebuilt to support improved acoustics for opera and musicals.
  • Essential repairs will be made to wiring, lighting and the safety curtain to make them fit for purpose, as well as improvements to set and scenery access to allow the building to work efficiently for the future.
  • Back of house facilities like dressing rooms, wardrobe and the green room will be given a long overdue facelift.
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With these changes, the stage is set to:

  1. More than double the opening hours
  2. Increase annual visitor figures by 50%
  3. Contribute £15m in economic impact per year for Edinburgh, an increase of £3m from current operations
  4. Create more than 100 volunteering roles

An important venue for touring drama, musicals and children’s shows, the King’s Theatre is home to Scotland’s biggest Panto production and each year plays a pivotal role in hosting the Edinburgh International Festival. Without investment, the audience and performer experience will decline and the King’s will be at risk of closure, either due to a sudden failure of infrastructure or through a more gradual reduction in attendances. 

The project will cost in the region of £25million. Funds are already in place from Capital Theatres (£5m) and the City of Edinburgh Council (£4m).  Remaining funds will be sourced from a fundraising campaign, applications to the Heritage Lottery Fund, and other grant making trusts as well as statutory bodies. 

Duncan Hendry, Chief Executive of Capital Theatres said: “We are delighted to have appointed Bennetts Associates to lead the design team who will transform the King’s Theatre over the next few years. Bennetts have extensive experience of redeveloping theatres and heritage buildings across the UK and we were impressed by the elegance of their initial designs. We look forward to working with them to deliver a stunning building.

The King’s Theatre holds a special place in the hearts of many people from Edinburgh and further afield.  The King’s really is ‘Everyone’s Theatre’ and throughout this exciting redevelopment project we hope people will help us secure the future of their theatre.  In early 2019 we will provide ways in which people can engage with, give opinion and support the project.”

Councillor Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener at the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “The King’s Theatre has been a firm Edinburgh favourite for over a century and the Council is proud to pledge £4m towards its redevelopment. From some of the most talented community stage groups in the country and children’s shows, to theatre directly from London’s West End, the ‘Grand Old Lady of Leven Street’ has always been Edinburgh’s theatre for everyone. This essential investment drive will help all of us enjoy a night at the King’s for many more years to come.

An ambitious redevelopment project will result in the repair, enhancement and expansion of one of Scotland’s oldest working theatres. This bold project will overhaul the interior and exterior of the theatre to enrich the audience experience and create a renewed sense of destination for the King’s Theatre.  Transformation of the King’s will reinvigorate the artistic programme, by providing the facilities to attract the very best productions to the city.

Redevelopment works are scheduled to begin in September 2021, with the theatre closed for 20 months, reopening summer 2023.

Discover more about the King's Theatre's future.