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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Melbourne's Century-Old Capitol Theatre Will Reopen in 2019

The stunning theatre will be put to use once more, acting as a temporary home for ACMI while it undergoes a refurbishment.
By Sarah Ward
November 20, 2018
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By Sarah Ward
November 20, 2018
  shares

Melbourne cinephiles, prepare to spend plenty of time in yet another picture palace. Come 2019, Swanston Street's Capitol Theatre will reopen its doors and once again host cinema screenings.

The RMIT-owned building will become a home-away-from-home for the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), which is closing down for a major refurbishment between mid-2019 and mid-2020. While ACMI's Federation Square base is completing its revamp, the organisation will partner with RMIT to bring its screenings to the Capitol. Festivals that usually use ACMI as a venue, such as the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, Human Rights Arts & Film Festival and the Japanese Film Festival, will also make the temporary move.

In readiness for getting the projector whirring, the Capitol is also undergoing a revamp of its own. The theatre's foyer will be restored, seats and carpet will be replaced, and upgrades will be made to its cinema projection, lighting and sound facilities. As well as revitalising a space that dates back almost a century, RMIT is eager for the Capitol to regain its place as one of Melbourne's cultural hubs. The university expects the venue to host more than 500 events and to welcome more than 100,000 visitors through its doors every year.

RMIT will also use the space as a research and innovation hub in fields such as film, digital media, virtual reality, augmented reality and animation, for both educational purposes and for the broader industry. "We're creating a cultural and educational destination," said RMIT Pro Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President Professor Paul Gough in a statement. "A thriving centre where the creative community can interact, connect and collaborate."

The news comes after the university launched a crowdfunding campaign to restore the Capitol and put it back into use, noting the building's significant historical value. First opening in 1924 — and initially hosting silent films that were preceded by live theatre productions before each screening, as well as being accompanied by Australia's first large Wurlitzer organ — the site was designed by architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, who also designed the city of Canberra. The Capitol's geometric-shaped light-filled ceiling is quite the striking sight, but one that's been seen intermittently by audiences over the past few decades. After initially closing in the 60s, being renovated to turn its stalls-level seating into the Capitol Arcade, and then undergoing remodelling again when RMIT took over in 1999, The Capitol has remained shut since 2014. We're looking forward to seeing it open once more.

The Capitol Theatre is located at 113 Swanston Street, Melbourne and will reopen at a yet-to-be-revealed date in 2019.

Image: RMIT.

Published on November 20, 2018 by Sarah Ward

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