113 Swanston Street,
113 Swanston Street,Melbourne, VIC 3000
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new article https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2019/jun/03/incredibly-transformative-melbournes-capitol-theatre-reopens-after-18m-restoration Also https://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rmit-capitol-theatre
9th November 2014: Over the last 12 months ( 2014) the Capitols famous ceiling has been completely rewired and relamped -that’s 4000 globes! New dimmers were also installed. The foyer has been recarpetted, seats were replaced a few years ago,and RMIT has undertaken much repair work including repair of plasterwork and repainting of the auditorium. In short the auditorium is looking wonderful. The Melbourne International film festival used the Capitol during it’s festival in July/August of this year. Unfortunately, the cinema has now CLOSED on a semi permanent basis as RMIT has relocated all the lectures to a new building and the theatre is no longer available for hire. Rumours are that it is up for sale. More to come .
What a day in 1946 when it was my privalidge to become a Page Boy at this great theatre. The days of great films such as ‘State Fair’ and many others.The days of flowers in the foyer and Organists that perfumed the theatre with their grand music.Iam now a Filmmaker and have completed a documentary on the Capitol,including footage of its construction.Available by contacting:Wintergarden Films,<
RMIT University who own the Capitol are currently undertaking repair rewiring and relighting of the auditorium ceiling. Will be fully operational by end of March 2013.
Photographs I have taken of the Capitol Theatre (some from the Cinema Theatre Association(UK) visit I organised to Australia in February 2006):
Exterior Capitol Building in February 2010:
Outer entrance foyer details:
Former balcony foyer ceiling:
Auditorium (former balcony) photographed in February 2006:
Poster frame on entrance stairs:
Sign on side of canopy in March 2004:
Several early photos and a couple of drawings of the Capitol Theatre are on display at the web site of the Flaxman Library of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Use the name Capitol Theatre in the Keyword search box.
Yes i like it.Thanks for the responce!!!
Not remodeled, all you see is authentic from 1924. The design of the Capitol Theatre was way ahead of its time.
Nice picture must have been remodeled out side looks too new to be so old.
exterior jan 2009
Over the last week, I have attended several sessions at the Capitol as part of the Melb Int'l Film Festival. It was great to see a world premiere of ‘September’, a new Aussie film.
The Capitol shows glimpses of its former glory. I had long wanted to see movies here and it was a pleasure to finally do so.
Regrettably, the Capitol is in a very poor way and needs a lot of TLC. Even the projectors and masking are in need of maintenance.
A better track record – certainly Mark. But RMIT aren’t doing anyhing much with the theatre despite all the plans the I have heard about over the last few years – they even lost a good manager through his frustration about ‘non theatre’ people who make decisions. Any further restoration should include computerising the ceiling lighting so that each row changes colour seperately as originally
designed, not each colour on one swith for the whole ceiling. The university have plans to develop the old Carlton and United Brewries site at Swanston and Victoria Sts. in a few years time. After that, they may not have a need for the theatre. One could ask the question – Quo Vadis?
Even with the stalls removed and the floor raised, this is still the most impressive Picture Palace and worth a visit to Melbourne Australia. No photograph can begin to capture the astonishment you feel when first seeing that ceiling for real. I have faith that it will again sparkle as it once did, Melbourne has a better track record for theatre restoration than the other cities of Australia, especially Brisbane which has none.
I should also have mentioned that there some 60 photos of the Capitol taken in 1924 on the National Library of Australia website.
Snow White and the Three Stooges was at the Capitol from 26 Dec 1961 to 10 Jan 1962.
Thanks for the comments. I was trying to remember over 45 years back! However I had a look at the photos, and the ‘tunnel’ as I now recall enclosed the stairs going up to the dress circle . The roof of the entrance foyer looked as though one was in a cave. Again I may be wrong, but I seem to recall that the last picture I saw there prior to it being ruined was some rubbish “The 3 Stooges meet Snow White”? I was trying to find out on the Internet as to what-ever became of Jan Rubini? I know he was exceptionally popular. Maybe someone can fill us in?
Donald454, The candelabras – wood and brass? I presume that you haven’t seen them at the National Gallery, they were on exhibition a few years ago. Maybe the arms which held the crystal pieces and candle lamps were brass; the centre stem? Can’t be sure what was inside what looked like an outer glass casing. If you like, I can check with another ex manager,maybe a revelation just what they were made of! With the stalls entrance, there was no tunnel, just a small carpeted landing a few stairs up from the marble entrance floor. See my photo collection in the Cinema and Theatre Historical Society page www.caths.org.au
The Capitol opened in November 1924 playing the original 1923 version of Cecil B. deMille’s “The Ten Commandments”. The orchestra was S.R. White’s “Operatic Orchestra” and the organist at the “25,000 pound” Wurlitzer organ was Horace Weber. This organ was originally polished wood and was the first in Australia to rise on a lift. (Later the organ was lacquered white and had gilded bits attached – it is now restored to polished wood condition and is installed in the Dendy Cinema, Brighton Vic).
In 1929 the violin virtuoso, Jan Rubini was imported from California via Sydney to front the Capitol Orchestra. Stage shows on the first half of the program were popular at this time and it is interesting to note that among the members of the corp de ballet was a young Robert (later Sir) Helpman.
The original house curtain was opulent and had a sort of peacock feather effect which was stunning when lighting effects were played upon it. On either side of the stage were huge electric candelabras, all wood and brass – they are now in the National Gallery of Vic.
The downstairs was quite novel architecturally as well, I seem to recall that you entered the stalls via a rounded ‘tunnel’. I also remember a very elaborate grand piano in the upstairs foyer that always had an illuminated picture of HM The King on it.
Yes, All the bxw ones of the original theatre are from my personal collection. They were originally shot for Hoyts when they took over the lease ( Dec. 1941?). I also have quite a few of the Regent 1929 and 1947 auditoriums, plus the Plaza, ditto.
For some really great B&W pictures of this theatre visit
Well ’M' (Mike or Mark?) Like all things pre computer, lighting was changed by the electrician on stage left by a series of dimmers over the six main rows. He would say, take out the whites on the bottom row with one hand as he brought in one of the colours on the next dimmer with the other hand! By the end of Hoyts lease, there were so many globe out that we brought all colours on together to hide the black blank spots. I was the last asst. manager and was fighting back the tears on that, the saddest last night. However, I was to return in triumph eighteen months laster as house manager. First, I went crook that when the ceiling had been rewired (current had to be changed from DC to AC), all of each colour came on over the entire ceiling! This was now controlled by a panel in the bio box! So that put the khyber on the old row by row pattern. Yes, the ceiling should now be rewired – cost about $1,000,000. The beauty of this is that the lighting pattern could then be set to operate to any order, obviating the cumbersome manual way of old. Sometimes computers can be useful!!! Not holding my breath for this to happen, the current owners, RMIT University are cash strapped and are not theatre people. I still think that the theatre will be ‘on the market’ when they get some other developements completed in ??? years time! Please contact me at any time re the Capitol or Regent Theatres! I am on
This sounds like a one of a kind theater well worth saving.
One thing that intriges me. Posters say that the lighting needs to be rewired and that it needs to be computerized. I’m sure this is true. What I am wondering is what device caused the lights to change colors way back then when there were no computers?
Glad to hear from you Craig! Gosh, maybe when the ceiling is repainted etc., some white knight will come up with the money to rewire and computerise it as it so badly needs! Of course, the tragedy is that revenue from hirings of the theatre never go to fully restore the auditorium and original circle foyer. Whilst the latter was used for receptions, product launches in your time as manager, it would surely generate its own hirings if properly restored to its former glory. Look at the restoration of the Plaza Ballroom!!! Would lik to hear from you sometime; email me on .au !!!
Tuesday 8th March 2005.
Recently “Heritage Victoria” a state government body announced that it would donate $190,000Aust to refurbish the famous Capitol theatres ceiling. work on restoring the ornate plasterwork, including repainting will commence in October 2005. Meanwhile the current owners of the venue RMIT University struggle to maintain the venue with fewer and fewer clients opting to use the space. The theatre needs massive renovations and someone with more vision than the current owners to restore this magnificent theatre .
Craig Cahill (Former Capitol Manager 1996 -1997 + 2000 -2004)
Sunday Nov. 7th 2004 was the 80th birthday of this greatest of world movie palaces. As asst. manager, it was the saddest night of my life when it closed in 1964, I was 99% close to tears. I went back eighteen months later as manager to re-open it – the happiest time of my life! I have also taken tours through it for the university. It has some commercial hirings, but sadly the university shove the money into their general revenue instead of restoration. The uni. are currently in financial trouble and won’t spend a cent onthe theatre. Even the knowledgable manager has left in disalusionment. What is really needed is $1,000,000 to rewire the magnificent ceiling, (4000 globes with colour changes from white to red, blue and green) for fibre optic lighting and a full computerised cycle. This would then bring its glory back to the 1924 style for the first time in half a century! My sign in ‘regenthr’ is for my association with saving the other movie palace here, the Regent Theatre. Contact me any time for info on either theatre!