Melbourne to have a new multipurpose arts venue in 2015

Alex Theatre St Kilda
Right – Entance to the new Alex Theatre. Photographer – Jim Lee

Yesterday saw the announcement of a new arts and entertainment centre for Melbourne, the Alex Theatre St Kilda.  

The well known George Cinemas site in St Kilda has been renamed and reborn as a multipurpose arts and entertainment centre, the first privately owned, commercial theatre venue in greater Melbourne. Opening in February 2015 it will house two spaces equipped for use as cinema or live theatre venues, one seating 500 and the second 330. A third space will be The Studio/Rehearsal Room, a black box venue with portable seating configuration to 250 seats and the facilities necessary to enable its use as “a cinema, live theatre venue, breakout space or a rehearsal area.

The founder and managing director of the project is Aleksander Vass whose company Glasskote is Australia's largest glass manufacturer with offices or licences in 48 different countries worldwide. Glass may be his business, but the entertainment industry is a personal passion. He has appeared as an actor on stage and in television; produced and invested in shows like Fiddler on the Roof and It's a Dad Thing; and backed a number of Australian films.

Through his company, The Vass Theatre Group, Vass aims to create a number of new live venues, from time to time producing work in its venues. Alex Theatre St Kilda is the first; there are four projects currently under consideration, three of them in Victoria.   

The name was chosen as a way of setting the site apart from the existing George Hotel, bars and restaurants, enabling the new arts hub to create its own identity. “The Alex Theatre name has ties with Victoria’s stage history, being one of the first successful venues established in the 1800s. Also, worldwide it’s the name of iconic venues, so I take it all as a good omen,” said Mr. Vass. “It was also important to have St Kilda in the title because we are the newest part of an edgy, rich arts culture that keeps on giving to locals and visitors alike.”  

The creation of a professional rehearsal space “that could see multi-million dollar musicals rehearse during the day and then ... screen movies in the same space at night” is, as Vass says, a way of ensuring that the theatres succeed.

The General Manger of the group is Richard Fitzgerald, who was previously general manager of Her Majesty's Theatre Melbourne and the Darwin Entertainment Centre (Darwin Arts Centre). Ticketek will be their ticketing partner which Fitzgerald sees as “a huge boost for our smaller and mid-range shows” giving them access to “Australia's biggest entertainment company”.

Fitzgerald is certain that the venue will be ready for its February opening. “We are on-track for a February 1 opening, with some very exciting shows already booked in and our listing as a venue for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2015.”

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