Forum Theatre

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This article is about the theatre in Australia. For the theatre technique associated with Augusto Boal, see Forum theatre. For the theatre in the U.S., see Forum Theatre (Washington, D.C.).
Forum Theatre
Flinders St - Forum Theatre.jpg
Address 154 Flinders Street
Owner Marriner Group
Designation Victorian Heritage Register, Historic Buildings Register
Capacity 1500 standing (Forum 1), 520 seated (Forum 2)
Current use live music, comedy, live theatre
Opened 1929
Years active 1929–1985, 1995-current
Architect Bohringer, Taylor & Johnson

The Forum Theatre (formerly known as the State Theatre) is a theatre and live music venue located on the corner of Flinders Street and Russell Street in the East End Theatre District of Melbourne, Australia. The building was designed by American architect John Eberson, who has designed many theatres around the globe, along with a local architectural firm at the time; Bohringer, Taylor & Johnson. It was designed as an "Atmospheric theatre" movie palace. The interior features reproductions of Greco-Roman statuary and a sky-blue ceiling decorated with small stars, mimicking a twilight sky.[1]


Formerly the sites of Morning Post-Herald Building (on Flinders Street) and State Migration Office (on Russell Street) the site was initially purchased by Rufe Naylor's Empire Theatres Ltd of Sydney with the goal of building a 'live' theatre sister to his Empire in Quay Street, Sydney.[2]

The building features a Moorish Revival exterior, including minarets and a clock tower. When it opened in February 1929, the cinema had the largest seating capacity in Australia, holding 3371 people. A dual-console Wurlitzer organ of style 270 was installed, featuring 21 rows of pipes and a grand piano attachment and oboe horn.[1] The organ was removed from the theatre in 1963, and subsequently installed in the Moorabbin Town Hall (now Kingston City Hall) by members of the Victorian Division of the Theatre Organ Society of Australia.[3]

In 1963, cinema chain Greater Union converted the venue into two cinemas, the Forum and the Rapallo. In 1978 the Forum was listed on the Historic Buildings Register. In 1981 renovations took place, dividing the complex into Forum I and Forum II. Forum I, being the larger of the two, is located on the ground floor and is generally used for concerts and other large-scale performances, whereas the third-floor Forum II is a smaller venue with a total capacity of 543 (concert) – 594 (screening) as opposed to Forum I's 1500 (standing) or 788 (cabaret) or 826 (theatre).[4]

The theatre is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

In 1985 it was purchased and used by the Revival Centres International, a Christian organisation, and fell into disrepair. In 1995 it was purchased by Staged Developments Australia, who redeveloped it for use as a film and concert venue.

It was later bought by David Marriner, as part of a project to establish Melbourne as a major centre for theatre in the Southern Hemisphere.

Current use[edit]

Today, it is used for concerts by many artists, having hosted performances by Oasis, Madonna, Ozzy Osbourne, Katy Perry, Cat Power, The Grates, Dirty Three, Sufjan Stevens, Slipknot (Band), Enter Shikari, Blind Guardian & The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, among others.

In more recent times, the theatre has been used as a venue for numerous acts during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, including local favourite Akmal Saleh and international acts, such as Mark Watson, Jason Byrne, Arj Barker & Megan Mullally among others and in September, Tyler Oakley's Slumber Party.

From 2009 to 2012 the Forum Theatre was the primary contemporary music venue for Melbourne Festival under the artistic direction of Brett Sheehy, in expansive programs featuring scores of international and national music artists, co-curated with Hannah Fox and Tom Supple.[5] It is also a venue for the annual Melbourne International Film Festival.


  1. ^ a b "State Theatre, Melbourne". Encyclopaedia of Australian Theatre Organs. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  2. ^ Van Straten, Frank (1987). "The State Theatre". Historic Environment. Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  3. ^ "Kingston City Hall (Moorabbin) Style 270 4/21 Wurlitzer Opus 1987". Theatre Organ Society of Australia (Victorian Division). Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  4. ^ "Forum Melbourne - About Us". Forum Theatre. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  5. ^ Supple Fox, Projects, Melbourne Festival.

Additional Reference[edit]

  • Thorne, Ross, Picture Palace Architecture in Australia, Sun Books Pty. Ltd., South Melbourne, Victoria, 1976. ISBN 0725102268

Coordinates: 37°49′00″S 144°58′10″E / 37.8165732°S 144.9693686°E / -37.8165732; 144.9693686