ACMI is a hybrid: a museum, games arcade, art gallery and movie complex. If you want pure entertainment, it’s got it; if you want to think and learn, it’s got that too. Sometimes the two are just a minute’s roll apart.
The three-storey complex is completely wheelchair friendly. Its special exhibitions rate a special mention, they’re world-class and designed to be inclusive – regardless of mobility. You don’t have to be a serious movie buff or compulsive gamer to enjoy ACMI. To help plan your visit, we’ve summarised the main offerings.
ACMI hosts world-class touring exhibitions that run for months. They’re artfully curated and often display exclusive pieces. Past shows include biographical deep-dives (Bowie, Scorsese, Aardman) and themed analyses of subjects such as music videos, costume design and game design.
The big shows are housed in ACMI’s enormous, subterranean space, which is easy to get to. Generally, staff will escort you down via the large lift, which is not far from the gift shop. The exhibitions themselves are designed to be accessible for all age groups, and for visitors with a range of mobility. Tickets are usually around $25 — well worth spending to be amused and enthralled for at least two hours.
This permanent exhibition explores and explains screen culture, including gaming, TV and film. Everything is at an accessible height. Watch early black-and-white footage; have broadcast TV explained; learn how the internet evolved; and see props and costumes from iconic movies. Personal highlights are the ‘Interceptor’ from Mad Max, artefacts from 12 Canoes and re-living Scott and Charlene’s wedding.
Further around, under the lights, kids gather in the Games Lab. Games controllers are set on low tables and it’s easy to roll up and start playing. No 20-cent coins needed — just a willingness to blast, slide, run and spin your way through about 20 different games. Newer additions to Screen Worlds include an eight-minute virtual reality experience, a laser-light experience and larger experimental, interactive displays. These are all wheelchair-friendly and accessible.
Volunteers and full-time staff are on-hand and have a genuine interest in screen culture. They will guide you around parts of the exhibit and they’re on hand with instructions for absorbing the virtual reality world. Toilets, including the AWC, are to the left of the escalators in the main foyer.
ACMI’s two state-of-the-art cinemas have exceptional accessibility (it’s easily the best we’ve seen). Ushers greet movie-goers, admitting them with a ‘beep’ of a barcode-reader and a smile. Our usher takes a minute to show us to the back-row wheelchair seating in Cinema One.
The small lift opens to clearly marked wheelchair seating with two generous spots. There is seating for companions, too. Nearby is a call button, just in case.
Cinema One holds 168 people with allocated areas for four wheelchairs — two at the front right and two at the back right. Cinema Two is twice the size, with a larger, 17-metre-wide screen. There’s seating for 390 people with allocated areas for four wheelchairs. Occasionally, when needed, seats are removed to accommodate even more wheelchairs.
Staff are the icing on the cake —passionate about movies and quick to offer help.
Films of all kinds are shown throughout the year, and ACMI hosts a range of film festivals — with focuses on animation, human rights, queer film and foreign film. It also hosts the big one – MIFF, or the Melbourne International Film Festival. Australia’s oldest film society, Melbourne Cinémathèque, also screens its selections here.
ACMI Café & Bar
The ACMI Café & Bar is a cut above formulaic cinema bars and a destination in itself. The food is excellent, with main courses and share plates on offer. There’s the citrus gin cured trout, deluxe wagyu burger and chicken pot pie. We devoured the spiced pumpkin salad. Twice.
The crowd is as diverse as the menu, prompting the cliché – ‘there’s something for everyone’. It’s relaxed and there are screens in the booths to watch movies, as well as desktop monitors in the main area. The accessible toilet and lifts to the cinemas are close-by.
The complex is best accessed one of two ways – through the Russell Street extension or from Flinders street. The Russell Street entry is open 10am-5pm and passing through the Ian Potter Centre (also known as ‘NGV Australia’) you’ll find the lift is directly ahead.
Entering via Flinders Street is simply by using the ramp at the main entrance. (where the large white letters spell ACMI). There are wheelchair accessible toilets on the ground and first floors. On the ground, they’re adjacent to Screen World, on the left of the escalator. On the first floor, they’re to the right of the escalator.
(Thanks Louisa, Chris, Anthony, Jack, Esther, Pam, Kat)
Entirely step-free / Multiple Accessible Toilets (GB, BC) / Lifts
Good: Unique to Australia + accessible for all ages
Not so: Parking can be expensive