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Palais Theatre has undergone several transformations since its inception in 1914. Originally known as the Palais de Danse, it transitioned to Palais Pictures after World War I. In 1919, a steel-framed and arched truss structure was built over the old dancehall which was relocated next door. The current Palais was built in 1927 and was part of a turn-of-the-century entertainment district. The theatre was originally owned by the Phillips brothers (Leon, Herman and Harold), three American showmen from Spokane, Washington. In 1922, the brothers brought in the architect Walter Burley Griffin to design a remodelled Palais Pictures.

Construction of Griffin's plans began in 1925, but a fire engulfed the stage in February of the following year, just before completion, bringing work to a halt. When Griffin moved on to Sydney, the developers commissioned a new architect, Henry E. White, to build a larger, more grand theatre.

When the last of the Phillips died in 1957, the Palais, the Palais de Danse and Luna Park were sold to local entrepreneurs in Melbourne. A brass plaque, still in place on the second level of the Palais, bears a tribute to Leon Phillips from members of the American community of Victoria. The theatre, which had operated primarily as a cinema until the 1950s, became increasingly popular as a live performance venue for top overseas stars such as Johnnie Ray, Bob Hope, the Rolling Stones, Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey and many others. 

In the 1960s and 1970s, the theatre regularly presented ballet, including The Bolshoi, The Kirov, Stars of World Ballet and The Australian Ballet and opera including Joan Sutherland in The Merry Widow. 

Today, the Palais Theatre stands as a testament to a century of entertainment history, captivating audiences with a diverse array of live performances from Bob Hope, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Australian Ballet, Australian Opera, Roy Orbison, Shirley Bassey, Joan Sutherland, Rudolph Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Margot Fonteyn, Robert Helpmann,  John Farnham, Tim Minchin, Jesus Christ Superstar, Ed Sheeran, Florence & The Machine, Sting, Kylie Minogue, Ross Noble, 5 Seconds of Summer, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

Venue Refurbishment

As of April 2017 Live Nation Australia Venues has taken on the Palais Theatre’s operations and restoration works which will see it transformed over a 30 year period. The Palais Theatre has completed Phase 1 and 2 of its biggest renovation since opening in November 1927 with around $26 million being invested in the Venue by the State Government, Local Government and Live Nation Australasia which has breathed new life in to this wonderful and historic art deco Venue. The renovation works to the Venue have been broken down into phases to minimise the time frame that the Venue needs to be closed ensuring that events can continue throughout.

Phase One Works

Funded by the State Government of Victoria and the City of Port Phillip, Phase One works have been completed and included;

  • Restoration of the entire exterior of the building (as much as practical, returning it to its original state)
  • Repair of external windows and facades
  • Structural repairs
  • Upgrade of the entire electrical system
  • Upgrade of the lighting system
  • Repair and upgrade of the "Palais Theatre" sign
  • Upgrade of the fire system
  • Installation of additional safe access walkways

Phase Two Works

Undertaken and funded by Live Nation Australasia, these works included;

  • Restoration of the historic ceiling domes inside the Auditorium
  • Installation of reduced mode curtains between the Lounge and Dress Circle on Level One
  • Repair and refurbishment of the Ground Level foyer
  • Installation of a lift to Level One
  • Installation of accessible facilities/features such as toilets, Ground Level and Level One seating, Box Office windows, hearing loops and general movement flow improvements
  • Refurbishment of the performer's dressings rooms
  • New administration offices
  • Installation of a new central bar on the Level One
  • Repair and replacement of floor surfaces within the foyers on Ground Level and Level One (marble tiles and recreation of original carpet)
  • Installation of a glass enclosed balcony, The Winter Garden, on Level One
  • Upgrade of food, beverage and merchandise outlets

2020 Works

  • Toilet renovation, refurbishment and installation on Ground Level and Level One
  • Stage surface replacement and painting
  • Set up coffee bar and mobile bar locations within foyers 

The Venue will continue to undertake annual renovation works, including updates to heating/cooling, for the duration of the lease with Live Nation Australasia. 

2024 Seat Refurbishment

Across January 2024, all the Orchestra seating was carefully refurbished to honour the venue's heritage, while providing a premium look and maximum comfort. Complimenting the seating refurbishment, is the installation of beautiful new carpet, a recreation of the venue's original Art Deco carpet, plus new vinyl flooring under and between the seating rows. The next phase of the seating refurbishment project is the stall seating, and this work is schedule to undertaken between mid-December 2024 and mid-January 2025.