Exploring Palace Cinemas eclectic venues around the country
Situated in the Northcote district of Melbourne, the Palace Westgarth Theatre has stood tall for close to 100 years and has a rich history. Opening under the name ‘Westgarth Pictures’, the theatre screened its first film to the public on the 20th of October 1921 with the 1919 silent film, Anne of Green Gables starring Mary Miles Minter, and was designed and built by 26-year-old architect John Secull.
After a few successful years, the theatre underwent refurbishment in July 1929 and survived as a single screen theatre well into the 1950s, ultimately transitioning into screening exclusively Greek-language films for Northcote’s growing Greek population in 1966, when migrant Peter Iannoudes bought the building. This remained the theatres’ identity until being taken over by independent art house circuit Valhalla in the 1980s where the program focused on cult classic films and double-bill and marathon event programming.
Finding different measures of success through the 80s and 90s the running of a single screen theatre became increasingly difficult, so in 2006 Palace Cinemas stepped in, buying the business and renovating the theatre, ensuring its survival into the new century.
Though large renovations commenced, Palace preserved its art-deco interior, not wanting to lose its classic charm. While not heritage-listed, it was an iconic site so Palace collaborated with the National Trust to ensure the changes would not eradicate its history. Managing director Antonio Zeccola commented “That’s why we went to this extent [with renovations], to maintain its beautiful, nostalgic features. It’s the way cinemas used to be.” Palace ensured that the majority of its exterior remained, focusing attention on revamping the interior and in conjunction cinema experience, bringing it into the contemporary cinema landscape by subdividing the space into an additional screen.
Palace has also injected further longevity and youthfulness by recently adding a Capi Outdoor Cinema in 2017. Making use of the theatre’s backyard and rear wall, and now furnished with beautiful murals and upcycled furniture, the new outdoor cinema operates with high-definition headphones and rocking seats for 30 patrons. This inventive approach has breathed further life into the iconic location and sees a more contemporary approach to the cinema experience.
Palace Westgarth remains one of our most precious locations and we look forward to its growth over the next century, taking a look back, here are the top 10 most-popular films of the last five years:
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (2018)
A STAR IS BORN (2018)
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI (2017)
JOJO RABBIT (2019)
THE FAVOURITE (2017)
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (2019)
WONDER WOMAN (2017)
AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019)