Arts for All Appeal

Project update

Current: 20 October 2020

This project represents the first major component of the Victorian Government’s vision to transform the Melbourne Arts Precinct in the context of our broader plans to reimagine Arts Centre Melbourne for a new generation.

Being able to meet the expectations of companies like Opera Australia, The Australian Ballet and international works of scale is absolutely critical to ensuring they can deliver work of excellence with consistency and confidence.

In July 2019 Arts Centre Melbourne selected Waagner Biro Stage Systems to supply and install a new system in the State Theatre. Based in Austria, Waagner Biro are a world-renowned manufacturer and were selected by representatives from Arts Centre Melbourne’s own production team as well as expert technicians from Opera Australia and The Australian Ballet.

Current Status

With the State Theatre closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, Arts Centre Melbourne granted Waagner Biro early access to the venue to commence work, approximately eight weeks ahead of the original schedule. We did this to give the project every chance of success in the current environment and afford us any flexibility and opportunity in 2021 that will allow our resident companies to present their seasons.


State Theatre Flying System replacement update


Construction Milestones

  • Most theatre machinery has arrived and is in the State Theatre awaiting installation
  • Power distribution cabling installed and commissioned
  • Site preparation and demolition of existing system complete
  • All winches removed and recycled
  • Construction of new technical rooms to house all new equipment
  • Hoist steelwork support installation commenced
  • Waagner Biro Team have arrived in Australia
  • Employment opportunities provided to Arts Centre Melbourne team members as part of the installation team

Caring for the State Theatre Curtain

State Theatre Flying System works required the State Theatre Curtain to be temporarily removed to mitigate any risks of damage to this spectacular piece of art.

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The Grid

The grid is the metal structure 25 metres above the State Theatre stage. From here a rigged system of wire lines and pulleys can lift scenery, lights and other stage equipment. This structure is supported by battens – the structural steel components of the rigging system – that connect to the theatrical elements.


State Theatre Flying System replacement update


With demolition complete, the crew have now started installing new hoist support steelwork, all in “Betty Blue.” The steel is affectionately named after Betty Amsden, Arts Centre Melbourne’s largest ever bequest donor, as blue was her favourite colour.

  • Each batten coming from the grid will have a 34 metre travel distance
  • The battens will have travel time of up to two metres per second
  • Each of the 105 battens is able to lift a weight of 800 kilograms
  • Each head batten is 1 metre longer than an articulated school bus

Winch Room and Hoists

The winch room takes up the majority of the Theatre’s Building Level 9 – the rest of which is administrative offices – and is the engine that powers the State Theatre Flying System.


State Theatre Flying System replacement update

The above image shows the winch room prior to demolition. Below it shows the winch room with the walls and all materials removed.


An electrical hoist (also referred to as winches) facilitate coordination with cues and move extremely heavy battens.

Due to their weight, additional lifting equipment was installed for decommissioning the existing hoists, and installation of the new ones.

Each of the new Fly System hoists is the equivalent weight of 2.5 Steinway Model D grand pianos at 450kg.

If we put all 112 new hoists end to end, they would stretch from the front door of the Theatres Building to the front door of Hamer Hall.

Off to a flying start

Meet the team and learn more about how our team of builders, engineers and staging professionals has been progressing under COVID-19 restrictions.

Read more

Photography by Mark Gambino and Teresa Noble.

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