Melbourne Icon Reimagined: RMIT Launches Capitol Theatre Appeal

Once a thriving hub for Melbourne’s entertainment and arts scene, the Capitol Theatre has been home to world premieres, film and cultural festivals and live concerts in the decades following its 1924 opening.

The iconic venue is set to undergo a much needed refurbishment to return it to its former glory, as RMIT officially launches a fundraising appeal, with support from the Victorian Government.

Academy Award winner Adam Elliot joined Minister for Training and Skills Gayle Tierney and RMIT Vice-Chancellor Martin Bean and to announce the project. The Government has contributed $2.5 million from the TAFE Rescue Fund towards the project with the remaining funding to come from RMIT and a community fundraising effort spearheaded by the university.

“So many Victorians have fond memories of the Capitol Theatre which is why it’s so important that we help look after this iconic Melbourne institution,” said Minister for Training and Skills Gayle Tierney. “Not only will the community benefit from this refurbishment, but RMIT students will also have access to high quality training in a unique environment – making sure they get the skills they need for the jobs they want.”

The refurbishment will see multiple phases of work completed across the entirety of the Capitol Theatre, including refurbishments of foyers; upgrades to cinema projection, lighting and sound; construction of new office spaces, and seat and carpet replacements. The project also includes the redevelopment of the fly tower behind the stage and expanding the use of the theatre beyond film screenings to include theatrical and musical productions.

Once completed it is expected up to 1000 RMIT students will use the theatre weekly for lectures, tutorials and creating and showing their own digital works. Use of the cinema for educational and public activities will provide opportunities for RMIT’s higher education and vocational students to develop the skills they need to get the jobs they want in a real-world setting.

Constructed in 1924, the Capitol Theatre is the largest civic work executed by internationally renowned American architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney Griffin. A treasured landmark of Melbourne’s urban landscape, the Chicago Gothic-style theatre is internationally renowned for its breathtaking design, including a geometric ceiling comprised of over 4,000 dazzling lights.

In 1999, RMIT acquired the building to use as an overflow lecture theatre and festival venue, but closed the space in 2014 when work needed to restore the majestic theatre became too substantial.

“Once again, Melbourne’s eager creative minds will be able to come together and teach, learn and create, all in a truly majestic space,” said RMIT Vice Chancellor Martin Bean. “It’s a privilege to be leading the charge towards returning this theatre not only to our students, but the entire Melbourne community.”

For more information, or to make a contribution to the RMIT Capitol Theatre Appeal, visit: for details.

Image: Adam Elliot at the RMIT Capitol Theatre Appeal Launch – photo by Pat Brunet / Event Photos Australia