A community campaign prompted the Andrews Government to step in and help save the theatre. (ABC News: Elias Clure)
Thirty years ago Martin Foley took a woman he’d just met on a first date to the ballet at St Kilda’s Palais Theatre.
Today Mr Foley, as the Minister for Creative Industries, unveiled a $26 million redevelopment that saved the iconic theatre from almost certainly closing.
As well as hosting ballet, the 90-year-old venue has welcomed some of Melbourne’s best ever known gigs.
The Rolling Stones supported Roy Orbison at the Palais in 1965, and years later artists like Tom Jones, Midnight Oil and Cold Chisel would grace the stage.
But in 2014 the theatre nearly closed after its operators said it was too expensive to maintain.
Builders had to work hard to remove a build up of nicotine from the ceiling. (ABC News: Elias Clure)
A widespread community campaign, including a brief run for Parliament from musician Tex Perkins, prompted the Government to step in and save the venue.
It will reopen its doors this Thursday.
Mr Foley said it was important the Government stepped in and kept a cultural icon of the city alive.
“Generations of Victorians have enjoyed countless nights of entertainment here and long may that continue,” he said.
“It really is the beating cultural heart of St Kilda and is just so important to the cultural renaissance that we’re seeing going on and that will just drive the reinvigoration that we are seeing.”
The renovation was funded mostly by the Government, with the local Port Phillip council also chipping in with $7.5 million.
St Kilda ‘wouldn’t let it be torn down’
The exterior facade of the venue has been repainted, a new lighting system has been installed and the impressive foyer is also being restored.
The project has repaired the theatre’s opulent ceiling, which builders say was covered in 70 years worth of built up nicotine.
The project also ensured some of the venue’s best known features were kept such as the hot water foot warmers under every seat.
Live Nation’s Michael Coppell said he had been coming to the theatre for most of his life and he was desperate to see it stay.
“I think this is such a well-loved established venue that there was a great effort right across the community at local government, State Government, private levels, to keep it alive to keep it going,” he said.
“I don’t think the St Kilda community would’ve accepted very readily this being torn down.”
The building will be officially completed in about five months but will host several events until then including the St Kilda Film Festival which kicks off this week.