Forum 1 & 2 Theatres
150-62 Flinders Street,
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This was the largest theatre in the Southern Hemisphere when it opened on 23rd February 1929 with Clara Bow in “The Fleet’s In” and Buster Keaton in “The Cameraman”. The interior resembles a Florentine garden and the impressive exterior is in Saracenic mode. The ceiling of the foyer and the auditorium are both painted dark blue and a features inside were the stars and clouds on the ceiling. The left side wall represented the Doge’s Palace in Venice and the right side wall the temple of the Venus de Capua in Naples. The Venetian style proscenium opening completed the decorations which were adorned with statues of naked gods and goddesses, imitation greenery and plaster doves.
The State Theatre was the flagship theatre of Greater Union Cinemas in Melbourne and it was equipped with a WurliTzer 4 manual, 21 rank (with twin consoles) organ that was opened by Frank Lanterman and Renee Lees.
The State Theatre was closed as a single screen on 8th March 1962 with Glen Corbett in “Homicidal” and Chubby Checker in “Twist Around the Clock”. It was converted into a twin cinema by walling off the balcony. Plans for this work were drawn up by architects Gordon Murphy & Reginald Appleford, of architectural firm Cowper Murphy & Appleford.
There are still some stars in the ceiling of the downstairs auditorium which reopened on 21st April 1962 with Nancy Kwan in “Flower Drum Song”, a new name Forum Cinema and a reduced seating capacity of 944. This was an expensive conversion, as each side-wall was ‘brought in’ by several feet to create extra office space and retail units behind. Instead of going for the cheaper version of installing blank walls, the original plasterwork was taken apart and reinstalled. The WurliTzer organ was sold to a member of the Theatre Organ Society, and later was sold to the suburban Moorabin City Council for installation in their Town Hall, where it is played for occasional concerts.
The screen in the former balcony opened on 20th December 1963 with Audrey Hepburn in “Charade”, a new name Rapallo Cinema and a seating capacity of 627. The Forum Cinema screen was equipped for 70mm presentations and both screens had Dolby sound installed. From July 1981, the screens were re-named Forum 1 & 2.
The Forum’s closed as cinemas when the building was sold to Revival Centres Australia from 26th September 1986 and for the next nine years the building operated as a church.
Staged Developments bought the theatre in 1995 and it is now part of the Marriner Theatres group. It now hosts concerts and functions downstairs with a capacity of 1,500, with most of the seating removed and 800 in a more intimate setting when comedy shows are booked. Occasional movies (sometimes a venue for the Melbourne Film Festival) and special events take place in the former balcony upstairs which now has a seating capacity of 540.
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