Palais Royal Theatre
297 Moorabool Street,
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Architects: Howard R. Lawson
Firms: Toombs & Durran
Functions: Bingo Hall
Styles: Art Deco
Located south-west of Melbourne in Geelong. Geelong is the second largest city in Victoria after the capitol Melbourne. The Palais Royal was built by Messrs. Tudehopo, Lawson & Butcher, who for this purpose commissioned the services of Howard R. Lawson, a South Yarra based architect and building contractor, who was already responsible for building six cinemas. Howard R. Lawson was heavily influenced by American approaches to design and construction work. In the building of the Palais Royal he utilized steel roof principals and posts salvaged from an earlier building known as the Joy Ark which was originally located in the city’s waterfront at Eastern Beach Geelong. The owners claimed that the new Picture house/Dance Hall was second only to the Regent Theatre in South Yarra, and in some respects regarding accommodation ahead of the Capitol Theatre in Melbourne. The finished cost was estimated at £40,000. The Geelong Advertiser announced that it would be a commodious building suitable for ballroom dancing, pictures and major functions. A wonderful place of entertainment that would provide accommodation for 3,500 persons. This was the time of the big band and forthcoming Glenn Miller era.
The opening night was 3rd November 1926, with the Mayor Cr. J.A. Thear conducting the proceedings, while Miss Valerie Walsh (contralto) began the entertainment. Management gave the proceeds of the night to the Geelong Hospital. Pictures would be featured nightly, and only the best would be screened. The latest bio-graph machines were installed, and perfect projection assured. 400 seats were allocated for cinema purposes in the dress circle, which embraced the full width of the building at the rear.
Architectural highlights featured a large hip roof with terracotta tiles and ridge details, the eaves are supported by narrow paired brackets attached to the façade, while the parquetry dance floor was said at the time to be the biggest in Australia. The building is regarded as a rare example of Art Deco architecture, with unusual details for the area of Geelong. The interior was finished in fibrous plaster with rich mouldings.
In subsequent years the Palais Royal was operated by the brothers Don & Laurie Slack, until it was sold in 1972. The Palais Royal was still operating as a cinema in 1952.
In recent years it has been in use as a bingo club, which operates in 2010. Currently (in 2020) it is undergoing redevelopment.
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