Monday 4 April 2016

The Forum Theatre & its long-gone splendour

Sitting at the corner of Russell and Flinders Street is this exhausted gargantuan theatre built in 1928. Its exotic arabesque dome is struggling to recreate the Moorish fantasy that once dazzled the city and hypnotized the town into the Aladdin’s magic carpet dream. The romantic clock tower illuminates a faint charm that used to capture the heart of millions. With its tired and husky voice, the minarets and their Roman-style gargoyles obstinately remind the modern Melbournians of its glorious past and its fading sensational history, yelling for its need to be remembered and cherished.

When the building was unveiled in 1929, the public gasped in uncontrollable amazement. It was a sight never been seen before in this young city of Melbourne. The enthusiasms of the crowds flooded the entire Flinders Street; Throngs of onlookers pushed their ways to behold the glory of this magnificent theatre. Police reinforcements were summoned to make sufficient space for the lucky patrons, who would later spend the next couple of days (if not weeks) recounting to their families, friends and acquaintances the outlandish interior of the twinkling canopied ceiling and the numerous lavish ornamentations.

For the next few decades, the Forum Theatre served its faithful role as an impressive venue for lovers of motion pictures, and a proud keeper of the Wurlitzer 270- the largest organ in the world outside of the United States. The glorious theatre enjoyed its unrivalled stardom till around 1950s, when the public interest in live music program slowly diminished. The massive organ was removed from the theatre and subsequently re-sold to the Morabbin City Council. The theatre was split into two separate cinemas in the 1960s to emulate the American trend of multi-screen cinema. The cinema reached the end of its celebrated status, and was officially closed in 1985.

In 1985, the Forum had an unexpected turn of fate and adopted an entirely new function as the headquarters of a Pentecostal church. Another decade passed, and we saw the very much rundown building being put on sale again as a result of the division of church due to doctrinal split. The Forum was restored in the 1990s and began its new role as the prestigious venue for a variety of performances - live music, comedy and films.

Today, the building is used as an extravagant concert venue by many renowned artists, including international superstars such as Madonna and Katy Perry.

Yes, the unkempt appearance and the fatigue exterior of the theatre are testament to the building’s long-gone splendor, and its desperate need for an urgent makeover. But what hidden beneath the weary fa├žade is a gorgeous masterpiece that still retains its mysterious appeal, and an undeniable marvellousness that will continue reminding us of the once-upon-a-time Mediterranean dream that had liven up the young Melbourne city.


150-162 Flinders Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

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