Like many Melburnians, RMIT’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Education, Belinda Tynan, has a personal connection to the Capitol Theatre, which is just one of the reasons she’s supporting the University’s appeal to revitalise the building.
“When I was a student at university years ago I went and saw the Towering Inferno at the Capitol Theatre. I couldn’t believe how the ceiling seemed to be in in sync with what was happening on screen – when the tower erupted in the movie, so did the ceiling lights – it was just amazing.
After I started my role here at RMIT, I found out the university owned the Capitol. When I told my husband, he said, “I saw Towering Inferno there”. I said, “So did I!”
It’s really sad at the moment that the Capitol can’t be used. We have a responsibility as custodians of the building to bring it back for the general public. The architecture of the building – designed by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin – is really significant, not only for Melbourne, but also for the world.
Given the kind of university RMIT is, it offers an enormous opportunity for our students. The Capitol has had a role in the history of film in Australia. So to revitalise the building revitalises the history as well. The students who will study there will feel that – the magic of the building, the design of the building – just being in there and imagining what it was like in its heyday. It’s pretty special.
I also have a personal interest in the old Wurlitzer organ that used to be there – I have music in my background and I play the flute and piano. The organ used to play during the movies. It used to rise up out of the stage and be played, surround sound, with the pipes behind the stage - part of the fascinating history of the building.
Hopefully through bringing the Capitol back to life, who knows – we might one day be able to bring the organ back together too.
When the appeal came up, my husband and I chose to donate for many reasons. We see the architecture as significant as well as the contribution to cinema in Australia.
Because I work at RMIT, we knew it would also have a long-term impact on the students. It’s really worth it. When it’s completed restored, it’s going to be incredible.”