Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Sydney's Capitol theatre stands on the oldest site on which there has been theatrical activity. It is significant for its historic architecture, distinctive interior place in popular entertainment. Using a theatre-based analogy, this study sought to explore the history of the site, building and theatres focussing on the involvement of City Council, Chief Secretary's Department and its Lessees, from the height of its popularity to its loss of public favour and through changing circumstances.

Research was undertaken in the archives of Sydney City Council, Department of Local Government and Cooperatives and National Trust of Australia, as well as newspaper sources held by many libraries. Secondary sources included texts of authorities in the areas of architecture, theatre, cinema, related government legislation and publications of the Australian Theatre Historical Society (now the Australian Cinema and Theatre Society). In addition, a number of people involved in the modem restoration work and who worked in the building gave talks at seminars and openings, interviews to the author and wrote letters containing more invaluable information.

The intention was to contribute to the existing body of knowledge in a number of technical, theatrical, administrative and historic elements of this important theatre and, where possible, link it to the social life of the city's population within the arbitrary period from 1860s to 1983. The only information that remained constant and accessible was that related to the administrative bodies. Contrary to initial expectations, findings show administrative incompetence by its owner, State authorities' failure to enforce government regulations and serious manipulation by its longest lessee, while others bore the brunt of neglect. The Capitol was lucky' to have survived long enough to be restored and extended.