Curtain up on major upgrades at Arts Centre Melbourne

ACM-(L-to-R)-Sam-Fallon,-Casey-Donovan,-Karen-Quinlan-AM,-Isabella-Triscari,-Estelle-Crompton-Lamb,-Steve-Dimopoulos-and-Nina-Taylor---photo-by-Charlie-KinrossSince the first curtain call in 1984, Arts Centre Melbourne’s State Theatre stage has been graced by the likes of Prince, Anthony Warlow, and national treasure Kylie Minogue – entertaining hundreds of thousands of theatre goers in the nearly 40 years since it opened.

Today a significant milestone has been reached in the Victorian Government’s $1.7 billion Melbourne Arts Precinct Transformation (MAPT), with the appointment of a head contactor, Lendlease as the provider of the Main Works package that will breathe new life into a treasured Melbourne icon.

“The Melbourne Arts Centre Precinct transformation will not only ensure we bring the biggest and best creative offerings to Victoria but it will also create hundreds of jobs for Victorian tradies to work on this iconic project,” said Minister for Creative Industries Steve Dimopoulos.

“We understand how important the creative industries are to Victoria’s economy – that’s why we’re backing local workers to build the most prestigious home of fine art and culture in Australia.”

As a major component of MAPT, Arts Centre Melbourne’s Theatres Building (under the Spire) is undergoing significant upgrades, ensuring that it’s fit-for purpose for future generations of performers and audiences.

Works include the restoration and enhancement of the heritage State Theatre auditorium including new seating, flooring and other air conditioning improvements for audience comfort.

Technology at the theatre will be upgraded with new state-of-the-art lighting, sound system upgrades and broadcast infrastructure – bringing the creative icon into the 21st Century.

Improvements will be made to accessibility of the State Theatre, with the addition of new lifts and wheelchair positions in the Stalls, meaning that for the first-time wheelchair users will have choice from all three seating levels.

The project is also increasing the numbers of enhanced amenity seating (with more space between rows) to aid mobility impaired patrons. Two new hospitality spaces will be built into the western and northern façades of the Theatres Building, giving more choice for pre- and post-theatre dining.

Back-of-house improvements include an expanded underground Loading Dock, effectively doubling its current size, giving the potential for more shows to be staged, with greater efficiency in bumping in (and bumping out) productions.

A new rehearsal space and studio, built to the same dimensions as the stage, will allow performers to rehearse and warm up right next to the stage for the first time.-

Most of the Theatres Building is underground and elements of the specialist engineering system that protects the building’s foundation from corrosion will be replaced – safeguarding the building’s future.

Lendlease has been managing the early works on the project since July 2022, during which critical shared services were relocated to keep Arts Centre Melbourne’s shows running during construction. A concrete and steel terrace at the rear of the building has also been removed, making way for future excavation works to expand the building’s footprint under Sturt Street.

“Arts Centre Melbourne is a much-loved institution and destination, with a rich history and legacy; these upgrades to the Theatres Building are a major step forward in our reimagining, to ensure we are fit-for-purpose for presenters and audiences alike for the next 40 years,” said Arts Centre Melbourne CEO Karen Quinlan AM.

“Since opening, the State Theatre has seen an estimated 12,000 performances on its stage – witnessed by more than 12 million Victorians and visitors.”

“I am honoured to be part of the transformation of the entire Melbourne Arts Precinct, ensuring that our role, as an inclusive gathering place for the community is maintained and leveraged for a new generation,” said Quinlan.

The transformation of the Melbourne Arts Precinct brings together and is spearheaded by leaders in the creative industry including the Melbourne Arts Precinct Corporation (MAP Co), Creative Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria and Arts Centre Melbourne, along with Development Victoria.

Arts Centre Melbourne will remain open during works which are due to be completed in 2027. For more information visit: for details.

Image: (L to R) Sam Fallon, Casey Donovan, Karen Quinlan AM, Isabella Triscari, Estelle Crompton-Lamb, Steve Dimopoulos and Nina Taylor – photo by Charlie Kinross