Plans for the complete redevelopment of the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury have been approved by city councillors.
The Marlowe needs 'more seats and toilets and a bigger foyer and bar'
It has been housed in a converted Odeon cinema in The Friars since 1984.
The building is said to be "no longer adequate" for the Kent theatre's work and councillors had been asked to decide on one of three recommendations.
It will now be replaced by a new £24m theatre, with increased seating, a second performance space, and new catering facilities.
Theatre director Mark Everett said the Marlowe had "outgrown" the cinema building, which was built in 1933.
"The work we do is being so well supported these days that the building is no longer adequate."
'Centre of excellence'
He said the theatre was "falling behind in terms of its compliance with modern legislation, not least disability legislation".
Speaking before the plans were approved on Thursday night, Janice McGuinness, head of culture at Canterbury City Council, said a straightforward refurbishment would "bring the current facilities up to standard".
But she added that a complete transformation would be possible if external funding were added to a council investment of between £8m - £9m.
"What we're aiming for is a centre of excellence for performing arts in Kent, if not the whole of the South East," she said.
Mr Everett said it would allow the Marlowe to stage an extended range of musicals, opera, ballet and drama.