Piccadilly Theatre and Arcade

The Piccadilly Cinema Centre (formerly Piccadilly Theatre) and Piccadilly Arcade are located at 700-704 Hay Street, Perth, Western Australia. It is an art deco style cinema and shopping arcade, designed by architect William T. Leighton for mining entrepreneur Claude de Bernales. The theatre and arcade opened in 1938, with the arcade connecting Hay Street through to Murray Street.

Piccadilly Theatre and Arcade
Hay Street Mall entrance to Piccadilly Arcade, Perth
General information
StatusArcade open
Cinema closed (October 2013)
Architectural styleArt Deco
Town or cityHay Street, Perth, Western Australia
Coordinates31.9536°S 115.8582°E / -31.9536; 115.8582
CompletedArcade February 1938
Theatre 10 March 1938
ClientClaude Albo de Bernales
Design and construction
ArchitectBaxter Cox and Leighton
Structural engineerGeneral Construction Company

In 1984 the theatre and arcade underwent a significant refurbishment, with the refurbishment winning an architectural award from the Royal Australian Institute of Architecture (WA Chapter) in 1986.[1] The theatre and arcade are classified by the National Trust of Australia and are included on the State Heritage Register. The Piccadilly Cinema was the last operating cinema in the Perth central business district before its closure in 2013 and until the opening of Raine Square's Palace Cinema in 2018.[2][3][4] A redevelopment of the cinema space and arcade is expected to be completed in late 2019 or early 2020.


The Piccadilly Theatre, was one of a number of theatres and cinemas constructed in Perth and its suburbs during the Inter-war period. Originally constructed in the Inter-war Functionalist style, the Piccadilly represented the desire for enjoyment and entertainment displayed by Western Australians towards the end of the Depression.[1] At the time of its construction, the place was fitted out with the most modern features and was the first cinema in Western Australia to be air conditioned.[5]

The site was acquired by Claude Albo de Bernales's Australian Machinery and Investment Company Ltd in 1935.[5] Bernales after completing the construction of London Court in July 1937 turned his attention to his property between Hay and Murray Streets. He set up Piccadilly Arcade Pty Ltd and engaged architects Alfred Baxter Cox and Leighton to design a theatre and shopping arcade for the site.[5] The construction of Piccadilly Theatre and Arcade utilised part of the existing buildings on the site, with the construction contract going to a local firm, General Construction Company.[5] Piccadilly Arcade opened in February 1938, with the theatre opening, a month later, on 10 March 1938.[5][6] When it opened the theatre had a seating capacity of 1,100.[6][7]

The theatre and arcade feature a number of bas relief friezes of dancing girls and 'Atlas type' figures which were moulded by Perth sculptor Edward Kohler.[8] Kohler was the second professionally trained sculptor to practise successfully in Western Australia.

Piccadilly Theatre and Arcade remained under the ownership of Piccadilly Arcade Pty Ltd until 1978, when it changed hands a few times.[5] In 1983, the owners Australian Fixed Trust (Permanent Trustee Nominees, Canberra) made a decision to restore Piccadilly Theatre and Arcade, and it was closed for refurbishment.[5] Perth architect, Ian Tucker, was responsible for the work. The theatre and arcade reopened in March 1984. The $2 million (AUD) refurbishment won the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (WA Chapter) 'Architecture Design Award for Renovated Buildings' in 1986.[1] Following the refurbishment, Piccadilly Theatre and Arcade was purchased for a reported $9.9 million by Alister Norwood, founder of Jeans West.[5]

In 1989 the cinema was sold by Hoyts to Glen Darlington, of Classic Cinemas, and closed briefly in early 1990. Malcolm Leech then took over the lease, and converted a section of the disused stalls into a small cinema, making the Piccadilly into a twin screen, seating 443 and 165 respectively. Leech subsequently converted the cinema into a triplex by adding a third cinema, with 103 seats, behind the main screen.[1] In May 2001 Leech leased it to Dennis McKenna.[9]

In 1992, Piccadilly Theatre and Arcade was purchased by current owners Winston Holdings Pty Ltd, Su-Rama Holdings Pty Ltd and Ayoman Pty Ltd, as tenants in common.[5]

In March 2005 the operation of the cinema was taken over by Cyril Watson, with the previous tenant, McKenna, leaving the cinema in 2004 with large unpaid debts.[10][11]

On 23 March 2010, a thunder storm with conditions not seen in almost fifty years damaged the cinema, forcing its temporary closure. The cinema re-opened after repair works were completed on 1 April 2010.

In May 2013, it was revealed that a portion of the cinema's roof had collapsed due to poor maintenance.[10]

In September 2013, the current leaseholder of the cinema, Cyril Watson, announced that the cinema would close at the end of the September school holidays. It is reportedly $400,000 in debt for unpaid rent.[12] The cinema space re-opened briefly in 2014 as the Noodle Palace venue as part of the Fringe World Festival.[13] It has also been used as a retail space and kickboxing studio.[14]

In October 2018, a multi-million dollar redevelopment of the cinema and arcade was confirmed. The cinema will be converted to a live performance theatre with a lounge and bar. The arcade will get new lighting, flooring and shopfronts. Tenders for a builder closed in October 2018 and work is expected to begin in January 2018. The City of Perth approved a $665,575 heritage adaptive reuse grant to be provided over five years for the redevelopment. The redevelopment is expected to be completed in late 2019 or early 2020.[4]

Heritage value

The Piccadilly Theatre and Arcade was interim listed on the Register of the National Estate on 5 December 1988 and classified by the National Trust (WA) on 5 December 1988.[15] The building(s) were also included on the City of Perth's Municipal Inventory[16] on 13 March 2001 and were permanently listed on the State Register of Heritage Places on 20 December 2002 by the Heritage Council of Western Australia.[1][17]


The complex is reportedly haunted by the ghost[18] of a former manager.[5] An account by a former projectionist claimed to have seen it as a "shadowy figure" walking across the foyer to the lift. However, his account states that it was not a manager but a customer who was locked in one night and fell down the stairs in the dark. The customer was found dead in the morning. It is also stated that in order to do his work properly, one of the cleaners had to have every light on and the music playing so that he would not be too scared.[9]


  1. "State Government heritage lists Piccadilly Theatre and Arcade". Judy Edwards MLA - press releases. Government of Western Australia. 24 June 2002. Archived from the original on 26 February 2012. Retrieved 5 March 2010.
  2. "Western Australia Plenty Of People, But Few Seats". Cinema And Theatre Historical Society Inc. Australia. 2008. Archived from the original on 30 September 2009. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  3. Fletcher, Robert (17 October 2007). "The end of an era..." robertfletcher.net. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  4. Young, Emma (29 October 2018). "Works to start at Piccadilly Arcade, cinema to reopen as live theatre". WAtoday. Archived from the original on 27 December 2018. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  5. "Register of Heritage Places - Assessment Documentation : Piccadilly Theatre and Arcade" (PDF). HCWA. 20 December 2002. Archived from the original (pdf) on 23 July 2008. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  6. "Heritage Perth: Heritage Day: The Piccadilly Theatre" (PDF). City of Perth. 20 October 2009. Archived from the original (pdf) on 8 October 2011. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  7. "Piccadilly Cinema Centre". Cinema Treasures. 20 December 2006. Retrieved 4 March 2010.
  8. "Kohler, Edward Frederick (1890 - 1964)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 5 March 2010.
  9. "PIccadily". Cinemaweb. Archived from the original on 27 December 2018. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  10. Flint, John (25 May 2013). "Horror movie right here in the CBD". PerthNow. The Sunday Times. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  11. Adshead, Gary (22 November 2011). "Hostel sex abuser ran cinemas". The West Australian. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  12. Flint, John (21 September 2013). "Curtain Call for Historic Cinema". PerthNow. The Sunday Times. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  13. Symonds, Kristy (23 January 2014). "Fringe World set to light up Perth". PerthNow. Archived from the original on 27 December 2018. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  14. Wynne, Emma (3 August 2017). "Surviving Perth art deco cinema to be revived". ABC News. Archived from the original on 26 April 2018. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  15. "Place No: 02065 Name: Piccadilly Theatre and Arcade". Heritage Database. HCWA. Archived from the original on 27 February 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2010.
  16. "City of Perth City Planning Scheme No 2 • Policy Manual" (PDF). City of Perth. 26 June 2001. Archived from the original (pdf) on 25 October 2009. Retrieved 4 March 2010.
  17. "Place No: 02065 Name: Piccadilly Theatre and Arcade". Heritage Database. HCWA. Archived from the original on 27 February 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2010.
  18. Zwar, Adam (4 June 2000). "Welcome to their nightmare". Sunday Herald Sun. News Corporation. Retrieved 26 February 2010.

Further reading

  • A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture: Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present Apperly, R., Irving, R. and Reynolds (1989) North Ryde, Angus and Robertson
  • Perth: A Cinema History Bell, M.D (1986) Sussex, Book Guild
  • Essays on Art and Architecture in Western Australia : Geneve, V. 'William Thomas Leighton: Cinema Architect of the 1930s' in Bromfield, D. (ed.) 1988, University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands
  • Essays on Art and Architecture in Western Australia : Taylor, Robyn. 'Edward F Kohler, Perth Sculptor 1890-1964' in Bromfield, David (ed.) 1988, University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands
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