There have been several theatres named "Palais" in St Kilda, the first of which opened in 1913. At the end of World War I, the Palais de Danse site became Palais Pictures. In 1919, a steel-framed, arched truss structure was built over the old dancehall. In 1922, Walter Burley Griffin began designing a remodeled Palais Pictures. Construction of began in 1925, but a spectacular fire engulfed the stage in February 1926, just before completion. When the Griffin's moved on to Sydney, the developers commissioned Henry E. White to build a larger, more grand theatre.
When Palais Pictures was built it was one of the largest theatres in the southern hemisphere. It opened on 11 November 1927 with Janet Gaynor in "Seventh Heaven". Palais Pictures was one of the first suburban cinemas to screen talkies on 3 July 1929.Until the fifties, it was the place to go to the movies.
A night out at Palais Pictures was more than just a movie:
- The curtains would open for the newsreel.
- After the newsreel the curtains would close.
- The screen would be flown and the spotlight would move to the middle of the stage.
- Musical Director Harry Jacobs would step forward and the microphone (imported from America and like no other in Melbourne) would come up from the floor.
- Jacobs would announce the programme.
- The curtains would open to reveal the set and a variety performance would begin.
- The curtains would close and the screen would come down again.
- The curtains would open for the first full-length film.
- At interval, people could hear classical music in the foyer.
- After interval, the second film, the main feature would screen and end at eleven or eleven thirty.
- A Saturday night ticket included entry to the Palais de Danse for dancing next door after the film.
With the cinema's decline in popularity, the Elizabethan Trust reinvigorated Palais Pictures with ballet and opera at the renamed Palais Theatre. In the sixties, the Palais Theatre was seldom dark.There were musicals, the Royal Ballet appeared with Margot Fonteyn, rock and roll's biggest stars appeared, including The Rolling Stones, Tom Jones, The Beach Boys, Roy Orbison and Australia's own Johnny O'Keefe.
In the seventies, the Palais Theatre was alive with ballet and opera, stars of stage and screen plus two long seasons of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar. In 1978, the Australian Opera appeared at the Palais Theatre, with a lavish The Merry Widow starring Joan Sutherland. It was only at the Palais Theatre that audiences were large enough to pay for such productions.
The eighties and ninties saw the decline of theatrical productions with live music becoming the mainstay of the Palais Theatre. By the 00s the Palais Theatre had lost its lustre.
In 2007 the Palais Theatre was revived with a new management team who have brought back full-scale ballet, film screenings and variety shows, complementing a full calendar of live music acts and ensuring that the future of the Palais Theatre is as varied and exciting as its past.
Through wars, depression, the invention of television and even a little neglect the Palais Theatre has continuously provided audiences the greatest events, entertainers, ambience and memories since 1927.
If you have any information on the history of the Palais Theatre or something to donate to our Archive, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.