In Melbourne’s central business district, at the Russel Street and Flinders Street junction lies what used to be known as the “state theatre” and now known as the Forum Theatre.
Back in 1929, when it was first opened, the theatre was Australia’s biggest seating capacity complex with 3371 seats. It was built by well known theatre architect John Eberson- an American, in collaboration with Australia’s own Bohringer, Taylor and Johnson. Unlike its counterparts this complex was designed with its atmosphere in mind. A ceiling depicting the outside sky at twilight together with Roman and Greek statuary gave the Forum Theatre its unique personality.
Greater Union, a cinema chain, took over the ‘state theatre’ as it was known in 1963; it was refurbished to accommodate two separate cinemas which were called Rapallo and Forum. 1978 saw the theatre rightly recognized as a Historic Building. Further renovations and refurbishments saw the division of the cinema into Forum I – which was situated on the first floor and accommodated 2300 – and Forum II – which was situated on the third floor and was smaller, seating only 530.
As a distinctive building on the historic list, this theatre/cinema is today used as a popular venue for many concerts by local as well as international stars and bands. These have included the likes of Blind Guardian, Cat Power, Dirty Three, Oasis, and The Grates. The Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival too use the theatre as a venue for their events.
The premises of the Forum Theatre are also used for other activities and events such as civic gatherings, benefit concerts, film screenings, business gatherings, recitals and other small-medium scale events.
The Forum Theatre makes special provision for disabled and handicapped visitors. If not to take in a performance, then the theatre is certainly worth visiting simply for its architecture and historical value.
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