You can no longer watch a film anywhere in Perth, and we may never be able to again.
The Piccadilly was our last lingering chance, but after City of Perth rejected a $1.7 million sponsorship deal on the 18th of March, it seems inevitable that the formerly whimsical cultural hub remains lost and lifeless, until it is gutted and converted into another CBD retail outlet. If approved, the Asia-based owners would have spent $3.5 million restoring the art deco theatre to its former glory, reviving it from its 3-year vacancy.
People once flocked in the thousands to the strikingly modern symbol of 1930s post-Depression optimism and hope. Perth had the opportunity, this month, for the second time since its 1986 Royal Australian Institute of Architect’s award winning renovation, to restore the Piccadilly to its former inspiring grandeur.
“We throw away everything else, we may as well throw away our buildings. In five years, Piccadilly will be out of fashion” -Ian Tucker, the 1986 restoring architect, in an interview following his Architecture Design Award for Renovated Building’s award.
The proposal provided an opportunity to revitalize an area of Perth city that has a strong desire for diverse development; to “drive significant economic, social, cultural and community benefits for the City of Perth”. It promised extended hours of activity, to deter anti-social behavior, twilight and creative industry capacity, and to create a competitive momentum with the recently announced Raine Square Cinema in Northbridge; countless “social benefits that come with activating that part of town at night”.
It was projected to lure nearly a million visitors over the next decade. But after complaints from Northbridge’s competing venue, the council rejected what they initially referred to as “the most sensible and logical opportunity”.
1985 Interior Lobby. Source: Roy Mudge
1985 Interior Lobby. Source: Roy Mudge
The theatre and arcade complex is a heritage listed, and a “distinctive landmark in Perth’s Hay and Murray Streets”, Environment and Heritage Minister Dr. Judy Edwards has said. The prominent sandblasted rose-coloured façade, neoclassical nudes in relief on the walls, and bold lettering in cubist-style polished chrome draws continuous attention, however the planned overhaul will strip the street front and replace it with glazed shopfronts.
Palassis Architect’s proposed redevelopment. Source: businessnews.com.au
Movie theatres are remembered fondly still by Perth society, and their history gives an intelligent insight into community and cultural life. The Piccadilly boasted a policy of first-run releases, the first automatic thermostat controlled theatre, and a 25-passenger lift advertised as the only such lift in Australia. Its heritage statement of significance, it is defined as a vital contribution to “Western Australian community’s sense of place”, and to be “valued by the local community for its associations with entertainment and social activity” .
“an addition to Perth’s buildings which enhances the beauty of the city and reflects great credit on those concerned in its conception and construction…its pleasing combination of modernity, utility and beauty will be readily appreciated by both the populace of Perth and visitors.”
The City of Perth needs to follow in the Fremantle’s footsteps. The West End’s conservative approach to heritage, not only of physical façade, but for cultural history, has manifested them as a national destination, generally attracting denser tourism and public interest than Perth city. Fremantle is at the forefront of preservation of historic Perth, and walking through the area evokes a strong sense of respect and rich culture. If the Perth Council endeavoured to rectify their careless expenditure in skyline-changing monstrosities and their continuous redefining of the CBD’s architectural identity, it too could retain and resurrect some of the remarkable quirk Western Australian culture has to offer. The Piccadilly should be a glistening credence to the adage that if you invest in quality, it lasts.
Front elevation of Murray Street arcade entrance 1986. Source: Heritage Council of Western Australia
 Marketing, Sponsorship and International Engagement Committee- Notice of Meeting January 2017. Agenda Item 8.3 Commercial Events Sponsorship- Mellen Events- Piccadilly Theatre
 Brad Mellen, Trilokesh Chanmugam “Piccadilly Freeze Frame” The Perth Voice Interactive, 3d February 2017
 Kim MacDonald “Council axes plan to rescue Perth’s iconic Piccadilly Theatre”, PerthNow, March 18 2017
 Media Statements “State Government Heritage Lists Piccailly Theatre and Arcade” 24th June 2002
 Jack Honnibal, ‘The Piccadilly, Theatre of Distinction’, Kino, 74, Summer 2000, pp.24-28
 Register of Heritage Places- Permanent Entry, Piccadilly Theatre and Arcade, 2002
 Building and Construction, 11 February 1938, p. 4-5
Building and Construction, 11 February 1938
City of Perth Planning Committee, Minutes, 17th February 2015
City of Perth Marketing, Sponsorship and International Engagement Committee, Agenda Item 8.3, 31st January 2017
Trilokesh Chanmugam “Piccadilly Freeze Frame” The Perth Voice Interactive, 3d February 2017
Heritage Council of Western Australia, Register of Heritage Places- Assessment Documentation, 20th December 2002
Heritage Council of Western Australia, Register of Heritage Places- Permanent Documentation, 20th December 2002
Jack Honnibal, ‘The Piccadilly, Theatre of Distinction’, Kino, 74, Summer 2000
Kim MacDonald, “Council axes plan to rescue Perth’s iconic Piccadilly Theatre” PerthNow, March 18 2017
Max D. Bell, “Perth: a cinema history” The Book Guild, Lews, Sussex, 1986
Media Statements, “State Government Heritage Lists Piccailly Theatre and Arcade” 24th June 2002 https://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/Gallop/2002/06/State-Government-heritage-lists-Piccadilly-Theatre-and-Arcade.aspx