The Cinema And Theatre Historical Society of Australia Inc.



Approximately 35 CATHS members and their friends visited Melbourne’s iconic Capitol Theatre on 26 September 2019 for a tour of inspection.


Designed by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, opening in 1924, The Capitol was purchased by RMIT University in 1999. Following extensive restoration work, including re-opening of some public areas and modernisation of technical facilities, The Capitol is unquestionably a jewel in Melbourne’s crown. The recent refurbishment has repositioned The Capitol as a state-of-the-art facility capable of meeting the contemporary requirements of users both within and beyond the education sector. The Capitol reopened in June 2019.

LED lighting and new dimmers have enhanced the functionality and practicality of the extraordinary auditorium ceiling. White is the default lighting base. Red, green and blue extend the gamut from which other derivations can be exquisitely produced. The ceiling has 66 segments for lighting purposes.


A fully certified 7.1 Dolby sound system is installed in The Capitol, and a 4K digital laser projector is housed in a new, lower projection room. However, the need to run old, rare archival film on an ad hoc basis still exists. Hence, the former projection room high above remains intact, as do the Cinemeccanica projectors within. It is hoped that these old film projectors will soon be superseded by modern day, 70/35 mm equivalents, also manufactured by the Cinemeccanica company of Italy.


Chevron-patterned carpet has been reproduced by Brintons carpet manufacturers in Port Melbourne, after a detailed weave analysis of a sample of the original 1924 Capitol Theatre carpet. New cinema seating has been imported from Spain and an internal lift has been installed for elderly and disabled persons. An extra 8 metres of stage depth has been introduced, as have modern, motorised curtains backstage and small, but functional change rooms and facilities for live performers. The fly-tower has been reinstated with flying facilities for the cinema screen and associated suspended left-centre-right speakers, as well as a number of lighting bars and stage drapes.


The Capitol’s theatre organ chamber infrastructure remains. It is believed that the Wurlitzer organ could be reinstated, but the cost appears prohibitive, at least for now.

We enjoyed a most informative, pleasant tour of the superb Capitol Theatre. Our sincere thanks to RMIT University and our convivial guide, Mr Marc Morel, Manager-Venues, RMIT.

… Text: Cameron Hall