Leading arts figures have reheated simmering fears that the $100 million State Theatre Centre is a white elephant two years after it opened.
Theatre producer and arts philanthropist Sally Burton said the Perth Cultural Centre facility was too expensive for many local producers to hire and it ought to be buzzing with life day and night rather than appearing desolate and closed much of the time.
The complex opened in 2011 as the showcase for WA theatre.
The Perth Theatre Trust's annual report revealed the Heath Ledger Theatre was used 211 times, the Studio Underground 136 times and the Courtyard outdoor space just 14 times in 2011-2012. Average audiences dropped slightly after the first six months of operation.
The venue is one of five managed for the Perth Theatre Trust by AEG Ogden.
"Because so much government money went into it, it should be a civic amenity," Mrs Burton said. "It should be a place for the people. I find it very sad that when I go down William Street and I see those gates closed, that we cannot go in during the day. I wonder why that court- yard is not used for buskers."
Mrs Burton said the facility lacked a cafe, bookshop and pop-up stalls to attract people by day
It was terrific that a performance tent had popped up in the Courtyard during Fringe World but it should be like that "all year round".
Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi backed Mrs Burton's comments and urged the Department of Culture and the Arts to bring more activity.
She has written to DCA director-general Allanah Lucas, suggesting the department and the City of Perth work together on a solution.
Resident companies Black Swan State Theatre Company and Perth Theatre Company are mounting just eight shows between them this year, citing high overheads.
Ms Lucas said the complex was exceeding the targets expected by its second year of operation. The William Street gates were not always closed and the Courtyard had been used more often recently.