The CBD’s sorely-missed landmark Capitol Theatre is getting a multi-million-dollar makeover to reopen its doors to the public.
Capitol Theatre was built in 1924 and purchased by RMIT in 1999 for use as a lecture hall but was closed due to disrepair in 2014.
RMIT University has launched a fundraising appeal to revamp the theatre with $2.5 million funding from the Victorian Government and a further $2 million from the community. RMIT will match the donations dollar by dollar.
The makeover will see the refurbishment of foyers, cinema projection upgrades, lighting and sound installations, new office spaces and new seats and carpets.
“We are here in a place that is deep in history and memories of the city. When you walk down Swanston St, the exterior of the building gives you little hint of the marvel that lies inside,” RMIT’s Vice-Chancellor Martin Bean said.
The Chicago Gothic-style theatre tucked away in the Capitol House building on Swanston St is one of Melbourne’s most loved landmarks, having been saved from demolition many times.
Its innovatively-designed ceiling reflects a crystal-lined cave and uses a geometric 3D plastered ceiling.
Capitol Theatre once housed world premieres of silent films with full orchestra performances. The Duke of Edinburgh opened the Melbourne Olympics at the theatre in 1956.
“It’s full of innovation as well as history. It’s one of the only two theatres that can show 70mm films as well as modern day 35mm films,” Mr Bean said.
Mr Bean said the Capitol would also be used as a festival and community event space.
“We will again give the theatre to the people of Melbourne. It will be a place of education by day and culture by night,” he said.
The refurbishment will also extend the Capitol Theatre’s potential for digital screenings, theatrical and musical productions.
More than 1000 RMIT students are expected to be using the space every week for film and digital media studies.
Arts and cultural institutions such as the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival have already expressed interest in reusing the space once it is transformed.
Adam Elliot, Academy-Award winning Australian animation producer and writer, is an ambassador for the theatre.
“The architects did a stellar job in building the finest interior of the building. It’s a spectacular space that just needs a makeover,” he said.