The Wren family, the owners of Melbourne’s iconic Festival Hall, have confirmed that they are selling the building because the business is no longer viable.
Chris Wren, a director of owners Stadiums Ltd, told the ABC that the venue could no longer compete with newer venues like Margaret Court Arena.
Festival Hall has been owned by the Wren family for over 110 years. Wren’s ancestor John Wren built Festival Hall in 1915.
It is no coincidence that Margaret Court Arena has decimated Festival Hall as a viable business. It was designed to do that. Even when MCA was being built promoters openly talked about how the government was designing a venue that would migrate the entertainment business away from West Melbourne and place it within the Arts District. To that decree, Melbourne isn’t losing a venue, it has replaced one.
The opening of Margaret Court Arena as a music venue had an immediate effect on the business of Festival Hall. 5000 capacity events quickly migrated to the new building.
The upcoming Festival Hall schedule tells all. Not one Bluesfest act is booked to play there in 2018. Major promoters Frontier Touring, Chugg Entertainment and TEG Live have placed their upcoming shows elsewhere.
Ironically, the only major promoter using Festival Hall is Live Nation, who also operate the Palais Theatre in St Kilda.
Festival Hall only has nine public music events and one sporting event scheduled so far this year. There is nothing announced for past mid-May. The closure was announced yesterday.
“We’re being pummelled,” Chris Wren told the ABC.
Director John Wren, the grandson of the founder, said the sale is a done deal. “It’s a fact that we’ve got to move on, and we’ve made our decision,” he told the ABC.