Palais Theatre

1 Lower Esplanade,
Melbourne, VIC 3182

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Palais Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

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 decor, 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 accomodate 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.

The Palais Theatre is Listed on the Historic Building Council’s Register.

Contributed by Nathan Last

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

nickparish on November 11, 2004 at 9:22 am

The owner of the Palais (carolyn harper) has always turned her nose up at anyone wanting to take a look at the beautiful and wonderful architecture and spanish moroccoan style of the Palais theatre. I remember as a 15 year old in 1986 doing a project on the Palais and went in and asked if I could take photos of the auditorium and the lobby and was propmtly told to buggar off. Ms Harper had no problems taking a journlist and camera thru the entire building when she bought it from the Hyams family in 1985 ‘Preening the Palais’ I recall was the name of the article and whilst she appeared to have grand plans for it then, they certinily haven’t come about. I would hold my head in shame if I was her, I have watched with great dismay the building literally crumble on the outside and parts of the inside when I have been in there as a paying customer. If she cant afford to refurbish it or at least pump some capital into it, sell it to someone (i.e. someone like a David Marriner) who would. Im sure if she had opened it up for tours at $5 a pop it would have more than paid for a major refurb by now….

mrt1924 on April 28, 2005 at 6:29 pm

Sounds like the staff need to complete a retail and customer service course.

RKLT on April 30, 2006 at 8:12 pm

The Palais is in fact on Crown land as is the Palace nightclub and Luna Park on either side. The current management’s lease is due to expire and the whole site (the triangle project) has been put to tender by the local council. The Palais itself is protected and whoever gets to redevelop the site apparently has to “restore” the Palais (its in the tender contract).
However, rumour has it that the current management is taking the view that possession is 9/10 of the law and refusing to budge. Should be interesting to see what happens next.

mancz on January 6, 2007 at 2:37 pm

Is there any news on this “triangle project” and if in fact the Palais is finally getting restored?

RKLT on August 21, 2007 at 7:25 pm

Well Carolyn Harper has been evicted by the local Council who own the Palais. She fought a long legal battle but a new manager is now in place. The Council has also evicted the operators of the very successful Palace NightClub next door which was promptly burnt to the ground by arsonists – luckily without effecting the Palais Theatre as they were separated by a small laneway. The Palace site has now been cleared (interestingly the Palace itself replaced the 1920s Palais de Danse which was also lost to fire.
The “Triangle” site which includes the Palais Theatre, the Palace site and a car park is now subject to a major development with a $20,000,000 (Australian dollars) refurbishment and restoration of the Palais. Five new small boutique cinemas are being added to the rear of the Palais (behind the existing stage) with a new access point to the Dress Circle so that can be used separately as a medium sized theatre. The rest of the development includes 181 shops, 3 nightclubs, several bars, a hotel and a health centrew, as well as new Art Gallery.
The new Palais Manager has announced that he will continue to encourage international musical acts while opening the venue to more community groups which might create issues for the nearby National Theatre (c 1921)which operates as a community arts centre and performing arts School.

Vibzzz on September 21, 2007 at 8:56 am

Seems no one has photo’s of inside of Palais Theatre, this is some of the interior roof domes. They were taken at night, and display the lighting effect. There is 2 pictures of each, one is normal the other is enhanced to provide more detail of the roof artwork on each dome. (Sorry about the full links i dont know how to do the hide and click link thing)

Picture 1. Palais Interior Roof Dome Closest Front of Theatre
Normal: View link
Enhanced: View link

Picture 2. Palais Interior Roof Dome Closest to Stage
Normal: View link
Enhanced: View link

Will be very interesting to see how the domes shape up after the reno, as they are already very impressive despite neglect.

mancz on December 27, 2009 at 5:35 am

I have recently heard that due to financial hardship from the consortiums funding this ‘Triangle’ project and due to the economic climate, that the project is no longer going ahead – and so too have the $20million dollar plans to restore the theatre.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on March 7, 2011 at 8:22 pm


RKLT on June 19, 2011 at 7:06 pm

The building is open & doing great business with live acts under the new management.

DavidZornig on June 15, 2015 at 5:56 pm

Added: A great group photo taken yesterday afternoon (06/14/15) of The Age Music Victoria Hall of Fame inductees outside the iconic Palais Theatre in St Kilda, Melbourne. Photo credit and copy courtesy of The Seekers. Via The Seekers Facebook page.

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