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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

A Crowdfunding Campaign Is Underway to Reopen Melbourne's Historic Capitol Theatre

The revamped space, which dates back to 1924, will be used for festivals, film screenings, concerts and conferences.
By Sarah Ward
June 24, 2018
  shares

A Crowdfunding Campaign Is Underway to Reopen Melbourne's Historic Capitol Theatre

The revamped space, which dates back to 1924, will be used for festivals, film screenings, concerts and conferences.
By Sarah Ward
June 24, 2018
  shares

For nearly a century, the Capitol Theatre has stood on Melbourne's Swanston Street — initially playing host to silent films that were preceded by live theatre productions before each screening, and also accompanied by Australia's first large Wurlitzer organ. First opening in 1924, it's a crucial part of the city's entertainment history; however since 2014, the space has remained closed.

Owner RMIT is eager to change that, launching a crowdfunding campaign to restore the theatre and put it back into use. With $20 million in restoration and improvement works mooted, the university is seeking to supplement the Victorian Government's pledged $2.5 million with $2 million in public funding — with every dollar donated to be matched by RMIT. And, for folks who give $250 or more, their name will be featured on the building's wall.

Running since late 2017, the campaign aims to "give Melbourne a spectacular and world famous space to house festivals, film premieres and screenings, concerts and conferences" — according to the appeal's website — plus learning spaces for RMIT students. It's the latest chapter in the theatre's eventful lifespan, which has seen it closed in the 60s, renovated to turn its stalls-level seating into the Capitol Arcade, and then remodelled again when RMIT took over in 1999.

If you've ever stepped inside the space — which was used as a venue for the Melbourne International Film Festival as recently as 2014 — you will have noticed the decor. Designed by architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, who also designed the city of Canberra, its striking, geometric-shaped, light-filled ceiling attracts as much attention as anything on the venue's stage or screen.

The entire structure, aka Capitol House, has been on the Victorian Heritage Register since 1989 — with the Capitol Theatre pre-dating both the nearby Forum and Regent Theatre.

For more information, visit the Capitol Theatre campaign website. For images of the site, visit the campaign blog.

Images: Michelleyesf / Stephen Bain / Adam Carr.

Published on June 24, 2018 by Sarah Ward

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