The need for a public hall was first felt in 1884 when it was proposed to the Council that a hall, to cost about 1,000 pounds, should be built. That was the beginning of a long story of recurring controversy culminating in the eventual opening of the theatre on 31 May, 1974, by the Prime Minister of the day, Gough Whitlam. At that time, Cairns had a population of 33,000 people.
Cairns can take some pride in the fact that the theatre was the first purpose-built theatre in regional Queensland. Some years later, theatres were built in Townsville, Rockhampton, Mackay and a number of other centres.
The Cairns Civic Centre, as it was known at the time, was built at a cost of approximately $1.1 million. The building was designed by Cairns architects, Messrs. B.T. Lynn, E. H. Oribin and J. L. McElroy, and constructed by the Cairns based firm of J.T. Watkins Ltd.
The building is masonry brick construction with a frontage of 29 metres and extends back 52 metres to the parking area. The fly tower over the stage area rises 21 metres and houses overhead lighting and stage
scenery which can be lowered into position
Photo by SM Card, courtesy of the Cairns Historical Society.