You won’t believe what was swept under the carpet
THE FORUM THEATRE (on Flinders Street, opposite ACMI) is an extravagant, eccentric slice of Melbourne’s history. Most locals have fond memories of dancing to their favourite bands under the twinkling lights of the deep blue skyceiling, surrounded by Greco-roman statues. It seems almost inconceivable that the venue could become even more beautiful – but that’s exactly what has happened. Last year, the family-owned Marriner Group (who also own the Regent, Princess and Comedy theatres) closed the Forum for a major overhaul. Given that the venue was built in 1929, many of these upgrades were necessary to bring the venue up to the needs of a modern music venue and events space (including electrical wiring, lighting, bathrooms and air-conditioning) – but other changes were part of a bid to restore the Forum back to its original glory. During the whole process, Jason Marriner, the company’s CEO, and his sister Kayley, the general manager, were mindful of maintaining the venue’s original atmosphere. “It’s had a complete overhaul, from the basement to the auditorium… [but] when you’re doing a heritage restoration, if you get it right, you really want it to appear that that’s the way it’s always been,” says Jason.
So what’s changed, exactly? The Forum’s famous blue sky has been repainted, for a start; but the most impressive difference is obvious the minute you walk through the doors. The carpet in the entrance has been stripped back to reveal colourful mosaic tiles, which were part of the original Forum, built as a grand cinema just as ‘talkie’ films were taking off. In 1937 it was carpeted over, because, as Marriner explains, “in the early ’30s, carpet was the luxe flooring.” Now, Melburnians will be able to admire the mosaic for the first time since 1937.
The Forum’s entranceway mosaic tiles