21 May 2012

Sydney V Melbourne. The theatre comparison

Today’s SMH has a great article by theatre director Julian Meyrick, on how new plans to expand the State Theatre (2,000 seats) fall well short of what is required for Sydney. Instead of a proposed rebuild to supply a proper backstage area and loading facilities, the owners (Amalgamated Holdings) will do what public companies do best – spend only as much as required, to maximise profits from the associated retail development.

As Meyrick points out, the Lyric Theatre at Star City, Theatre Royal (1,100 seats), Capitol and Sydney Theatre (900) seats are all we have. Compare this to Melbourne – the list below shows how the city retained its theatre heritage, while Sydney, its council and the NSW State Government have never had the spine to invest or protect the city’s venues.

Before you check the long list, also consider the wild difference with arena venues. Sydney will next year demolish the Sydney Entertainment Centre, leaving Allphones Arena 17 k west. In Melbourne, I can walk from Etihad to Rod Laver and HiSense, all on the city rim.


Note: The Sydney Ent Cent may be replaced with an 8,000 seat arena, if we believe the State Government who plan to turn the entire Convention and Exhibition development over to private enterprise. But hang on – the State Theatre WAS to have a proper stage and loading dock but its private enterprise owners have managed to get approvals for much, much less than that.

Sydney – we are screwed.

Melbourne CBD Theatres

The Arts Centre
100 St Kilda Road, Southbank
Ph +61 3 9281 8000


The Arts Centre occupies a prime location in the heart of Melbourne’s leisure and entertainment precinct and is home to Australia’s premier performing arts companies.

CUB Malthouse
113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Ph +61 3 9685 5111

The CUB Malthouse has been home to the Playbox Theatre, its resident theatre company since opening in 1990. In 2005 the organisation has underwent a renaming and is now The Malthouse Theatre

Princess Theatre
163 Spring Street, Melbourne
Ph +61 3 9299 9800

The Princess Theatre is one of the world’s grandest Victorian theatres, with its domed mansard roofs, cast iron filigree, marble staircase and foyer. Guests can dine in the Melba or Marriner rooms before taking in one of the international shows and major musical productions that come to the city.

Regent Theatre
191-197 Collins Street, Melbourne
Ph +61 3 9299 9500

Built in 1929 as a ‘picture palace’, the Regent Theatre is an extravagant, large Spanish gothic hall now restored to its former glory. The Regent hosts some of the leading shows to hit Melbourne – major productions staged here include Sunset Boulevard, Annie, and Fiddler on the Roof.

Athenaeum Theatre
188 Collins Street, Melbourne
Ph +61 3 9650 1500
Athenaeum Theatre

Located in the centre of the city next to the Melbourne Town Hall, the Athenaeum is one of Melbourne’s oldest theatres. The Athenaeum presents a wide range of popular theatre from Bell Shakespeare Company productions, to local and international comedy shows as an important Melbourne Comedy Festival venue.

Forum Theatre
154 Flinders Street, Melbourne
Ph +61 3 9299 9700

The Forum Theatre’s exterior has an exotic design that continues as you step through the doors. Lavish moulded plaster, gold paint and reproduction casts of famous Greek and Italian sculptures line an auditorium interior topped with a soaring blue ceiling punched with stars designed to look like an open sky. The Forum hosts cabaret, rock concerts and the annual Melbourne Film Festival.

Her Majesty’s Theatre
219 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Ph +61 3 9663 3211

Dame Nellie Melba sang her first opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre, which also staged performances starring ballerinas Anna Pavlova and Dame Margot Fonteyn. Built in 1886 it was damaged by fire in 1929 but it retained its original façade and art deco interior. Refurbished again in 2002, Her Majesty’s hosts theatre, dance and musicals.

Comedy Theatre
244 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Ph (03) 9299 4950

Home of Melbourne comedy, the Comedy Theatre is built on an historic site for theatregoers – the former Hippodrome, home of circus performances and melodramas. The current building presents an exterior that is a replica of a Florence palace, with a distinctly Spanish interior. Audiences enjoy a diverse range of theatre and comedy.

Capitol Theatre
113 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Ph +61 3 9650 4017

The Capitol Theatre is a classic Art Deco theatre designed by Walter Burley Griffin and opened in 1924.


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