The New Hippodrome and Palace of Varieties was formally opened on Monday 2nd September 1907. Its first Managing Director was Signor Rino Pepi, an Italian ex patriot who was originally a quick-change artist and impersonator whose love of theatre took him into a management career. The theatre was designed by G Gordon Hoskins and built by Owen and Ward of Birmingham, a firm specialising in theatre building. It is constructed from local Middlesbrough red brick with terracotta dressings. Above the Parkgate entrance is a 64ft. high pyramid-roofed tower (housing a water tank) which gives the theatre's distinctive appearance. The ornamental canopy is a replica of the original iron and glass structure, which was destroyed by a traffic accident in the 1960's.
The theatre flourished during the 20 years Signor Pepi ran it but following his death in November 1927, its future became uncertain. Competition from cinema became a real threat and a succession of different managers struggled to balance the books. Indeed at one stage the theatre was equipped with a film projection box at the rear of the upper circle. In 1966 after much hard work and enthusiasm from members of the community, especially Darlington Operatic Society, the Borough Council of Darlington assumed full financial, administrative and artistic responsibility for the theatre on behalf of the town. The "New Hippodrome" became officially known as Darlington Civic Theatre.