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95.  THE CAPITOL TftEATRE - MELBOURNE                                   by Rod Cook

             With cinema complexes springing up throughout the sub-  The architects were Walter Burley Griffin, his wife Marion
             urbs,  the  term  'picture palace', with few  notable excep-  Mahoney, and S.A. Peck. Their final  drawings were sub-
             tions, belongs to the past.  Cinemas today, can be best de-  mitted to the Victorian Board of Health on the 21st of No-
             scribed as being 'purely functional', designed for maxim-  vember  1921.  final approval for tJ1e  commencement of
             ising  the greatest throughput of patrons each day at  the   construction was given on the 9th of February 1923 with a
             venue.                                            view to the project being completed and opened for busi-
                                                               ness the following year.
             It is  ironic, and extremely fortunate,  that the city of Mel-
             bourne still  retains  three examples of what can truly  be
             termed ' picture palaces' in the broadest sense of the term.
             'The Regent' has been fully restored, 'The State' still ex-
             ists  with  most of its  features  relatively  intact,  albeit di-
             vided into two auditoriums, and last but not least the third
             and  most unique of these,  the  'Capitol'  is  undergoing a
             renaissance after almost being lost to the public.

             This article  will  attempt  to  briefly  chronicle  the  life.  so
             far, of 'The Capitol'.

             ln 1921, when the first drawings were completed for 'The
             'Capitol', Melbourne's cinemas and indeed most through-
             out the world were of varying quality, ranging from con-
             verted warehouses to live theatres.  Few had architectural

             Silent films  were  maturing  and  the  quality feature  was
             becoming the  nom1  as  larger companies  began  to  invest
             more in their major productions.

             Faith  in  the  motion  picture  was such,  that land fronting
             Swanston Street, near the Melbourne Town  Hall, was ac-
             quired from  the Howey estate.  The name Howey is  still
             associated  in  Melboume through  ' Howey  Place'  and  in
             England through the Romney, Hythe &  Dymcburch Rail-
             way, the smallest public railway, which was commissioned
             by Howey and is stiU  in operation today.
                                                                         Walter Burley Griffin  c. 1930
             The site had a frontage of 86 feet and a depth of 224 feet
             which backs onto Howey Place.  Two proprietary compa-  The building required some  12,000 tons of concrete, 700
             nies acquired the land.  The directors were Mr. A.J.J. Lucas   tons of steel bars and approximately 500 tons of structural
             (Chaim1an), Mr. Herman Phillips (who was also the gov-  steel.  The beams for the theatre roof have a 60 feet span
             erning director of the picture theatre) and Howey himself,   and  weigh  80 tons  each.  Most notable was  the  balcony
             who  would  sit on the  board when he was in  Australia.   area of the  theatre as it did not require intermediate posts
             The building, which would incorporate 'The Capitol', con-  for suppo1t.  Electrically, over 60 miles of cable  was  re-
             tained a basement extending the full area of the site and a   quired and included outlets for some 4,000 lamps for illu-
             twelve storey office block.  One of the directors, A.J.  J.   mination.  The building  itself  was  advanced  for its  day,
             Lucas ( 1862 - 1946) who statted business as a cafe owner   utilising steel and  reinforced  concrete.  The roof level of
             in the vicinity.  He commissioned Walter Burley Griffin,   the building was to  have had projecting balconies, incor-
             an  American  architect to  renovate one of his  properties,   porating a  restaurant.  Tllis was not  to  eventuate as  the
             the Vienna Restaurant, which was renamed Cafe Australia   City Engineer was not impressed.
             after its completion.                             The use of fire resistant materials allowed for a licence to
                                                               be granted for the cinema's use as a ' live theatre' .
             Griffin bad been involved in a number of projects in Aus-
             tralia, including the laying out ofthe national capital, Can-  With construction completed, all was in readiness for the
             berra and several buildings  in  Melbourne. Lucas was not   grand opening.  Melbumians were about to  have a truly
             finished with Griffin and with his business buoyant com-  grand  'picture palace'  to  see quality films  in luxury sur-
             missioned  Griffin and his associates  to  build 'Capitol   roundings.  The magnificence of the  interior  must have
             House' which  was  to  incorporate a  two  level  theatre for   been a talking point from  the beginning of construction.
             the screening of motion pictures.

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