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Forum Melbourne
Melbourne (AU), Forum Melbourne -- 2019 -- 1585.jpg
Address 154 Flinders Street
Owner Marriner Group
Designation Victorian Heritage Register, Historic Buildings Register
Capacity 2000 standing (Forum 1), 520 seated (Forum 2)
Current use live music, comedy, film
Opened 1929
Years active 1929–1985, 1995–present
Architect Bohringer, Taylor & Johnson

Forum Melbourne (originally the State Theatre) is a live music, cinema, theatre, and event venue located on the corner of Flinders Street and Russell Street in Melbourne, Australia. Built in 1929, it was designed by leading US ‘picture palace’ architect John Eberson, in association with the local architectural firm Bohringer, Taylor & Johnson. Designed as an "Atmospheric theatre", the interior intended to evoke a Florentine walled garden, complete with a cerulean-blue ceiling sprinkled with lights like twinkling stars, mimicking a twilight sky.


The sites of Morning Post-Herald Building (on Flinders Street) and State Migration Office (on Russell Street) were 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. The site was subsequently purchased by Managing Director of Union Theatres, Stuart F. Doyle in 1928 for the future development of the State Theatre.

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 3,371 people. A dual-console Wurlitzer organ of style 270 was installed, the first to be built "west of Chicago", featuring 21 rows of pipes and a grand piano attachment and oboe horn. 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.

In 1963, recognising the changing trends in attendance, cinema chain Greater Union converted now-oversized auditorium into two smaller cinemas. The Dress Circle balcony was blocked in, creating the upstairs Rapallo while the Stalls level was renamed the Forum. In 1981 further renovations took place, including the renaming of the cinemas to Forum I and Forum II.

In 1985 it was purchased and used by Revival Centres International, a Christian organisation, and fell into disrepair. In 1995 it was purchased by David Marriner's Staged Developments Australia, who redeveloped it for use as a film and concert venue. It became part of Marriner Group's portfolio of theatres, including Melbourne's Princess Theatre and Regent Theatre, and joined by the Comedy Theatre in 1996.

The theatre was listed on the Victorian Heritage Register in 1978 and classified by the National Trust of Australia in 1994.

Current use

Forum I, or Forum Downstairs, is located on the ground floor and is generally used for concerts and other large-scale performances. The second-floor Forum II is a smaller 550-seat theatre-style amphitheatre.

Today, it is used for concerts by many artists, having hosted performances by One Ok Rock, Oasis, Madonna, Ozzy Osbourne, Katy Perry, Cat Power, Jarvis Cocker, Dirty Three, Sufjan Stevens, Dizzee Rascal, Tame Impala, Lily Allen, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Harry Styles, Noname, Mac DeMarco, Methyl Ethel, Meg Mac, Bachelor Girl, Mr. Big, Alison Wonderland and Extreme among others.

In more recent times, the Forum 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 and Megan Mullally among others and in September, Tyler Oakley's Slumber Party.

From 2009 to 2012 the Forum was the primary contemporary music venue for Melbourne Festival in expansive programs featuring scores of international and national music artists. It is also a venue for the annual Melbourne International Film Festival.

In 2016, the Forum underwent a major internal renovation to restore many of its original features and fixtures, including uncovering and restoring the mosaic tile entrance, remoulding and repairing statues, and moving the interior walls back to their original 1929 position. The Forum officially reopened 5 September 2017.

Additional reference

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