LIGHTS, CAMERA …
AS GORGEOUS AS IT WAS ARCHITECTURALLY GROUNDBREAKING, THE CAPITOL HAS A SPECIAL PLACE IN THE MEMORY OF MANY MELBURNIANS. OUT OF COMMISSION FOR YEARS, THE THEATRE IS SOON TO MAKE A BRILLIANT COMEBACK.
It was once one of Australia’s most glamorous buildings. Opening in November 1924 in Swanston Street, Melbourne – then the nation’s capital – the Capitol Theatre was groundbreaking with its magical cave-like ceiling, which lit up with thousands of coloured globes. The cinema opened with a charity screening of Cecil B. de Mille’s suitably epic The Ten Commandments. One of the most significant Australian buildings by Chicago architects Walter Burley Griffin and his wife, Marion Mahony Griffin, the theatre’s doors closed in 2014. Melbourne architects Six Degrees are now working on plans for its restoration, which its owner, RMIT, would like to reopen as a more public space, celebrating its role as one of Australia’s great buildings. RMIT launched an appeal last November to raise $20 million to help with the refurbishment. The project has the backing of the Victorian government, which kick-started the fundraising with a contribution of $2.5m. “It will be a very rewarding experience to be able to bring it back into the public eye,” says architect Peter Malatt from Six Degrees. “We have taken a very subtle approach to it. We are making an effort to make sure the glory of the building is recognised. It has a lot of memories for Melbourne.”
If all goes well, the building is expected to be finished by the end of next year. Supporters of the restoration project appeal include 27-year-old RMIT graduate and film maker Ling Ang, who has donated $500,000 to the project; film producer and RMIT adjunct professor Sue Maslin (The Dressmaker), Academy Award-winning animator Adam Elliot (Harvie Krumpet); and Village Roadshow deputy chairman John Kirby. “The Capitol has played a vital role in