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St. Kilda’s Palais Theatre re-opening after $26.9m renovation

After a $26.9 million reboot, the iconic Palais Theatre in St. Kilda reopens to the public tomorrow (Thursday May 18) for the St Kilda Film Festival Opening Night.

The façade has been returned to its original 1927 colour. A new automated state-of-the-art lighting system can be programmed to turn to any colour or pattern to create a spectacular light show inside and out. The idea is to create a sense of excitement for patrons even before they take their seats and the performance begins.
 
After years of bickering and buck-passing, the renovations were paid for with $13.4 million from the state government and $7.5 million from the City of Port Phillip. There have been upgrades to the theatre’s infrastructure issues including upgrades to the theatre’s electrical system, fire protection and hydraulic systems.
 
Good project management has enabled an extra $3.5 million worth of additions to the project including an upgraded plumbing system and additional landscaping, as well as the new light show.
 
Live Nation, which has now taken over the running of the Palais on a 30-year lease, has begun $6 million worth of internal changes since March. These include restoring the foyer and historic ceiling domes in the auditorium, a glass enclosed balcony and improved facilities for people who are mobility impaired. Work is expected to be completed by September when the annual Heart of St Kilda concert for Sacred Heart Mission will be held.
 
At a media call at the venue yesterday, Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley said, “We said we would save the Palais to ensure it remains an important part of St Kilda’s culture and Victoria’s live music scene for many years to come – that’s exactly what we’ve done.
 
“Everyone from Mick Jagger to Kylie Minogue has strutted their stuff on the Palais stage, and generations of Victorians have enjoyed countless nights of entertainment at the venue. Long may that continue.”
 
Mayor Bernadene Voss thanked passionate community members, including Tex Perkins, who publicly campaigned to save the theatre from being closed down. They also fought against Live Nation’s involvement, insistent it would not be able to continue the venue’s strong community links.
 
Cr. Voss stated, “Handing over the keys to Live Nation earlier this year was a major milestone in the theatre’s history. The end of our works has cleared the way for them to fulfil their responsibilities under the lease to ensure the Palais is ‘future proofed’ and will stay in top condition after all the works are done.”
 
Michael Coppel, president of Live Nation Australia & NZ, who said his first ever concert as a 14-year old was seeing the Rolling Stones at the Palais, also revealed,  “We have already commenced Live Nation’s Phase Two works program, which will continue and be completed in stages through to September at appropriate intervals around the theatre booking schedule.”
 
The hardest part of the renovations, he quipped, was to remove years and years of nicotine smoke stains from the ceiling.
 
Coppell recalls the time when he booked Harry Connick Jr into the Paais. After a long drought, thunderstorms hit St. Kilda – and an embarrassed Coppell had to rush to get a bucket on Connick Jr’s piano to catch the raindrops as they hurtled down through the broken roof!

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