Forum Theatre

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.[1]

Forum Melbourne
Address154 Flinders Street
OwnerMarriner Group
DesignationVictorian Heritage Register, Historic Buildings Register
Capacity2000 standing (Forum 1), 520 seated (Forum 2)
Current uselive music, comedy, live theatre
Years active1929–1985, 1995–present
ArchitectBohringer, Taylor & Johnson


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.[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 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.[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 holding 2000 (standing) or 788 (cabaret) or 826 (theatre), is located on the ground floor and is generally used for concerts and other large-scale performances. The third-floor Forum II is a smaller venue with a total capacity of 543 (concert) to 594 (screening).[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 who also controlled the Princess, Comedy and Regent theatres in Melbourne.

Current use

Today, it is used for concerts by many artists, having hosted performances by 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, Meg Mac, Bachelor Girl, Mr. Big 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.[5] It is also a venue for the annual Melbourne International Film Festival.

In 2016, the Forum underwent a major internal renovation[6] 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.[7] The Forum officially reopened 5 September 2017.


  1. "State Theatre, Melbourne". Encyclopaedia of Australian Theatre Organs. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  2. Van Straten, Frank (1987). "The State Theatre". Historic Environment. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  3. "Kingston City Hall (Moorabbin) Style 270 4/21 Wurlitzer Opus 1987". Theatre Organ Society of Australia (Victorian Division). Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  4. "Forum Melbourne – About Us". Forum Theatre. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  5. Supple Fox, Projects, Melbourne Festival.
  6. Atkar, Case Studies, Forum Theatre.
  7. "The restored Forum Melbourne revealed". The Weekly Review. 5 September 2017. Retrieved 21 February 2018.

Additional reference

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