Whenever you look for events happening around Melbourne, don’t be surprised if you see two venues that keep popping up.
We are, of course, talking about the Forum Theatre and Regent Theatre!
Since the late 1920s, these two venues have played hosts to some of the most amazing live performances in Melbourne – nay, the entire country. And to this day, they continue to serve as venues for some of the most exciting events in the arts and music world.
We’ve talked a lot about the events that these venues host throughout the year. But we’ve never actually talked about the venues themselves. And with both of these distinguished buildings listed on the Victorian Heritage Buildings Register, both buildings are worthwhile sites on their own!
Today, we’ll be shining a spotlight not on the actors and musicians that walk the stage at these two historic buildings, but on the theatres themselves! Find out how these two venues came to be and how they have been doing since opening their doors and raising their curtains for the first time.
Atmospheric theatre? What’s that?
When you walk by the corner of Flinders Street and Russell Street, you can’t miss the distinctive tower of the Forum Theatre.
But before we talk about The Forum Theatre, we need to discuss “atmospheric theatre.” This was a style of theatre architecture popular in the 1920s, where the ceiling, walls and lighting were modelled on exotic courtyards or gardens.
The idea was to transport the audience into the performance:
Instead of light fixtures, you had a realistic night sky
Instead of pavilions, you had elaborate balconies that matched the setting of the performance
The Forum Theatre (formerly known as the State Theatre) was built in 1929 as one of these venues, hosting a cinema, live music, and theatre performances.
And unlike many atmospheric theatres that were demolished or underwent renovation, The Forum kept its atmospheric features. Go to any performance and you’ll be struck by the ornate wall decorations and the enchanting decor!
A brief history of the Forum Theatre
When it first opened, it had the largest seating capacity in the country at 3,371 people.
Over the years, the Forum Theatre has undergone some changes – starting with the conversion of the venue into two cinemas – the Forum and the Rapallo in 1963.
And then in 1982, the complex was divided into “Forum I” and “Forum II”. Fast forward three years to 1985, and the Forum Theatre was bought by an organisation that sadly let it fall into a state of disrepair.
This was a dark period of The Forum’s history – literally! The proud building sat unused for a decade until the venue was, thankfully, purchased and restored in 1995.
Finally, in 2016 the Forum Theatre was brought back to its former glory, undergoing a major restoration phase which brought back the original 1929 features and fixtures of the venue. Fans of stunning architecture, rejoice!
Speaking of heritage-listed, the Forum Theatre was placed on the Victorian Heritage Register due to its architectural and historical significance to the State of Victoria, demonstrating the extravagance and confidence of the 1920s boom.
So, you don’t need to worry – this iconic Melbourne venue looks set to host top international music and comedic artists for years to come!
To find out more about the Forum Theatre, including all its upcoming events, check out their official website here.
1929 was a bumper year for Melbourne’s cultural and entertainment scene, with not just one but two historic Melbourne entertainment and cultural venues opening their doors for the first time
We are, of course, referring to the Regent Theatre on Collins Street!
At the time of opening, the Regent Theatre had a seating capacity of 3,250 seats, coming in second to the State Theatre (or what we now know as the Forum Theatre).
Here’s a fun fact: it also had a ballroom located at the basement which was named Plaza! When the Plaza was not awarded a liquor license, it was transformed into a cinema.
Due to high costs in running the theatre, original owners Hoyts – yes, that Hoyts – sold the Regent Theatre to Melbourne City Council as part of its City Square redevelopment project.
And then for the next 25 years, the Regent Theatre would carry on under the cloud of multiple threats of demolition, eventually falling into disrepair.
In 1992, after years of neglect and the threat of demolition, David Marriner stepped in and pushed for the restoration of the Regent Theatre as part of the performing arts revival that was happening in Melbourne.
The redevelopment of the Regent Theatre took three years and when it finally opened its doors again in 1996, patrons were welcomed by a fully refurbished theatre.
Since its revival, the Regent Theatre has hosted some of the world’s most renowned theatre productions including:
- Sunset Boulevard (which was the first production staged in its 1996 reopening)
- Fiddler on the Roof
- Gone with the Wind
- The Lion King
- And more!
View upcoming shows at the Regent on the official Marriner Group website.
Forum and Regent Theatre parking
Heading to the Forum or Regent Theatre?
Melbourne has long held a reputation as the culture capital of Australia. And this can be largely attributed to the Regent and Forum theatres and the fantastic events they both have played host to!
Both theatres have had an immeasurable influence on the atmosphere of our city. And fortunately for music, theatre and film fans, both look like they’re going to be part of Melbourne’s culture scene for a long time yet.
If you’re heading to an upcoming musical, concert, or show, choose Le Garage for safe and convenient Forum and Regent Theatre parking.
Just a stone’s throw away from the Forum Theatre (literally 30 seconds on foot) and Regent Theatre (about a 3-minute stroll!) is Le Garage – a 24-hour parking facility located in the east end (or “Paris end”) of the CBD.
With dual entry/exit on both Flinders Street and Flinders Lane, parking near the Regent Theatre and Forum is a cinch!