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Melbourne’s 1920s-era Capitol Theatre has reopened

Interior of Capitol Theatre in 2019
Photograph: Ben Swinnerton/Supplied

Melbourne’s Capitol Theatre, located on Swanston Street near the Manchester Unity Building, has reopened after being closed for over five years.

The Capitol Theatre was once one of the city’s most spectacular theatres. It was designed by famous architects Walter Burley and Marion Mahoney Griffin (also known for creating Canberra) and opened in 1924. The theatre was then owned by RMIT University from 1999 up until it shut in 2014. 

Now, thanks to a huge refurbishment, the 580-seat Capitol Theatre lives on. But it’s no longer just a cinema. RMIT is billing the Capitol as a destination for culture, education and innovation, with the goal to host more than 500 events, festivals and live performances every year. RMIT students will have access to the theatre’s new facilities and technologies, plus the space will be open to non-students for public screenings and events. In the next year, the Capitol will also play host to screenings run by ACMI while ACMI undergoes its own massive $40 million refurbishment.

RMIT Capitol Theatre

Photograph: Tatjana Plitt/Supplied

There’s no way to understate this – the theatre is truly gorgeous. The geometric ceiling was designed to look like a crystalline cave with over 4,000 coloured lamps hidden in the crevasses of the roof. The Capitol closed in 2014 after it had fallen into disrepair, and the university deemed the restoration too substantial to undertake at the time. Luckily, in 2017, an appeal was launched by RMIT to get the theatre back to its original state.

RMIT Capitol Theatre

Photograph: Tatjana Plitt/Supplied

The restoration cost over $20 million, with the Victorian government pitching in $2.5 million. There were private donations made as well, including $500,000 from Melbourne filmmaker and RMIT alum Ling Ang.

RMIT Capitol Theatre

Photograph: Tatjana Plitt/Supplied

You will be able to take a tour of the newly opened theatre during this year’s Open House Melbourne festival.

In pictures: This is what ACMI will look like after a $40 million redevelopment.

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