There has been a theatre on the corner of George Street for almost 170 years. The first theatre built in 1836 was known commonly as the ‘Vic’, and later as the ‘Theatre Royale’ after the company that played there. Forbidden to perform plays during the University terms, the lessee of the theatre resorted to presenting ‘concerts’ or music hall entertainment and by 1880 the theatre had become quite run down.
The third New Theatre opened in February 1934 and with a wonderful revolving stage (mechanism extant) and increased capacity of 2000 (1,710 seated) attracted all the great dramatic actors, popular and operatic singers and musicians, music-hall entertainers and matinee idols of the age to Oxford. The New’s renowned annual pantomimes (with Vera Legge’s famous Oxford Babes during the war years) became an Oxford family ritual. This was the golden age lasting until the advent of television in the 1950’s when running large theatres became increasingly difficult.
The theatre is now owned by The Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) who are the biggest theatre owners in the country, owning 40 theatres across the UK. Audiences at the theatre can once again see leading opera and ballet companies, from Welsh National Opera to the English National Ballet, contemporary dance, hit musicals like Chicago and Guys and Dolls, and of course sell-out pop concerts. The venue’s current capacity is 1785 and the building is not listed.