Coronavirus restrictions have seen the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre explore new ways to use their award-winning but unutilized spaces, including the filming of a Hollywood blockbuster starring Liam Neeson, and the training of guide dogs for the blind.
MCEC closed its doors in March due to the pandemic, but as a major contributor to the Victorian economy, the venue has been exploring new ways to contribute to the community.
“Even with the impacts of the pandemic, we contributed $740 million in economic impact to the state last financial year, and a further $1.1 billion the year prior,” says Peter King (pictured left), MCEC CEO. “We can play an important role in the state’s economic recovery by using our spaces in new ways, both to bring jobs back to the city and support the wider community.”
One example of using the enormous venue’s space differently includes as a film studio—an idea that was originally floated as part of an innovative new idea-generating “hackathon” held by MCEC in August called “Unconventional Ideas.”
Since that event, MCEC has been working with the Victorian screen industry, and is now hosting the production of a major Hollywood film called Blacklight, starring Liam Neeson. Directed by Mark Williams (co-creator of Ozark and director of box-office success Honest Thief), the production is expected to bring more than 500 local jobs for cast and crew back to the local film sector.
Blacklight director Mark Williams says, “We are thrilled to shoot at the MCEC as it provides amazing soundstages, some key locations and great production offices. It’s a wonderful Melbourne backlot, ideal for our production needs. And as a bonus, the MCEC team couldn’t be more helpful and friendly.”
As well as the economic benefit the venue is providing, MCEC is also supporting the community by providing Guide Dogs Victoria a safe, contained space and free-of-charge space to train guide dogs. This will ensure people with low vision or blindness can continue to receive essential services during restrictions.
Karen Hayes AM (pictured right), Guide Dogs Victoria CEO, says, “Thanks to Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Guide Dogs Victoria has been able to continue to provide essential services to clients and train life-changing guide dogs during this lockdown. We know that our clients have felt significant isolation and an increasing loss of confidence, as the restrictions continued. We are incredibly grateful to MCEC for working creatively with us to get people back on track to be confident and independent again.”
“We have an environment that is accessible and safe for the community to continue to work to their needs,” MCEC’s King says. “In these unpredictable times we need to pull together as a community and be resourceful, and we are looking for opportunities to make sure our wonderful space is being utilized.”
MCEC continues to explore new uses for the venue as Melbourne moves towards a “new normal.” Utilizing the creativity and experience of its employee base, MCEC has already installed new virtual event studios and technologies for hybrid and online events, and in the pipeline are opportunities to use the building for safe and physically-distanced entertainment and events that may support the heavily affected hospitality, cinema and arts industries.
The Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre is Melbourne’s destination for big ideas and inspirational events. Hosting more than 1,200 events each year, MCEC is internationally renowned for its incredible range of spaces, innovative design and jaw-dropping food. At MCEC, they’re passionate about creating inspirational environments. They do this by delivering a personalized service and partnering with their customers to offer ideas, insights and imaginative solutions. They tailor every experience because they realize it’s the little details that make all the difference. Their venue is distinctly Melbourne and they’ve been inspired by the creative, cultural and diverse delights of the city they call home. For more info, visit www.mcec.com.au.