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New Palace Raine Square cinema complex brings luxury back to the movies

There was a time when it felt like there was a movie cinema on every Perth city corner.

Those days are long gone and, for the past five years, there has not been a single cinema in the CBD.

But that will all change on Monday.

The Palace Raine Square cinema complex will open with nine cinemas in the $72 million redevelopment between Wellington and Murray streets.

Pure luxury: Arianna Shipp and Patrick Wallis pop in.Pure luxury: Arianna Shipp and Patrick Wallis pop in.
Camera IconPure luxury: Arianna Shipp and Patrick Wallis pop in.Picture: Michael Wilson

“We are bringing the glamour back to the Perth city,” Palace Cinemas chief executive Benjamin Zeccola said.

“We will be providing an exciting movie experience that will begin from the moment you cross the cinema threshold.”

Museum of Perth chief executive Reece Harley said it was great to see a renewal of the cinema culture in the city.

“Fifty years ago Hay Street alone had six cinemas — the Piccadilly, Plaza, Savoy, Capri, Royal and Ambassadors,” he said.

“Then there was the Liberty on Barrack Street, the Grand on Murray Street and the Metro on William Street. Together, these nine venues formed the beating heart of Perth’s nightlife as patrons spilled on to the streets filling the many cafes, restaurants and pubs to the brim.

“It’s hard to overstate the significant role that cinemas have had in shaping Perth as an entertainment designation in years gone by.”

School holiday fun: Perth patrons buy tickets for the movies.School holiday fun: Perth patrons buy tickets for the movies.
Camera IconSchool holiday fun: Perth patrons buy tickets for the movies.

The first Perth cinemas were probably outdoors, with the earliest known screening being on November 21, 1896, with the showing of a film about the Melbourne Cup run a few weeks earlier.

The Queen’s Hall on William Street — part of the nearby Wesley Church — began film screenings in the early 1900s.

After World War I, it was bought by Hoyts and renovated into the Regent Theatre.

It became the Metro cinema in the 1930s and continued until 1973, when the last film showed was Gone with the Wind.

Perhaps Perth’s grandest cinema was the Ambassador’s Theatre, with its elaborate Ancient Greece- inspired detailing.

Way back when: A sign tells patrons not to use five pound notes.Way back when: A sign tells patrons not to use five pound notes.
Camera IconWay back when: A sign tells patrons not to use five pound notes.

It opened in 1928 and, with a number of hiccups and temporary closures along the way, continued showing movies until 1972.

It was demolished and replaced by a modern cinema complex that was torn down in the 1990s.

The Raine Square complex will be run by the family-owned Palace Cinemas company, which was founded by Antonio Zeccola in the 1960s.

It owns and manages 134 screens in 24 cinema complexes around Australia.

Antonio’s son Benjamin, the company’s chief executive, said the Perth cinemas would show the best films available, from the Hollywood blockbusters to film-festival winners.

“Our focus with this complex has unashamedly been on the customer,” he said.

“For example, we have gone out and found the most comfortable chairs we could — and chose reclining leather chairs hand-made in Barcelona.

“The menu will offer some different and, hopefully, tasty offerings and patrons will be able to take their drinks into the cinema.”

The complex also has a champagne lounge and a rooftop terrace bar.

After Monday night’s red-carpet opening, the cinema will open to the general public on Tuesday, with a special $10 a ticket first-week offer.

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