1 Lower Esplanade,
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Palais Theatre (Official)
Operated by: Live Nation
Architects: Henry Eli White
Previous Names: Palais Pictures
The beautiful Palais Pictures when built had 2,968 seats, and was the third largest theatre in the southern hemisphere, after the State Theatre and Regent Theatre in Melbourne. It opened as the Palais Pictures on 11th November 1927 with Janet Gaynor in “Seventh Heaven”.
The Palais Pictures is situated on the Lower Esplanade in the Melbourne sea-side suburb of St. Kilda. Its two domed towers correspond with that of Luna Park (amusement park) which is next door on its southern side.
The Palais Pictures retains all its original décor, except for the dress circle external balcony which has been filled in. The interior auditorium is almost completely untouched except for an addition to the fly tower, the orchestra pit extended and more dressing rooms to accommodate live theatre. Some years ago, the public health authorities insisted that a fire exit be installed on the rear of the balcony, on the northern (Palais de Dance) side. This reduced the seating capacity to 2,896. It was re-named Palais Theatre many years ago.
Many stars have appeared at the Palais Theatre, including: Harry Belafonte, Eartha Kitt, Gracie Fields, The Seekers, Shirley Bassey, George Shearing, Rolf Harris, Shelley Berman, Ry Cooder, Bette Midler, Debbie Reynolds, Johnny Mathis, Liza Minnelli and Peter Allen. The musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” played the Palais Theatre in 1973 and 1976. Joan Sutherland appeared with the Australian Opera in “The Merry Widow” in 1979.
It is one of the most beautiful theatres in the Melbourne area and although totally under-utilised, it still had a fairly steady amount of bookings until closing in 2007.
Taken over by the city, plans are underway to fully restore the building, and in September 2010, a grant of AU$2.5 million was approved by the state government. The Palais Theatre is now re-opened as a concert/theatre venue, with occasional film screenings of a specialist nature, film festivals etc. It is leased by Live Nation.
The Palais Theatre is Listed on the Historic Building Council’s Register.
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