Palace Theatre Canterbury

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Canterbury Palace Picture Theatre, [built 1922], ca 1955- 1960. Image copied with the permission of Barry Sharp.

The Canterbury Palace Picture Theatre opened in 1922 and was originally owned by Mr William (Bill) Pilling and seated 910 patrons.

The following description is from Kino Cinema Quarterly -Autumn 2001, written by William Gray

The Canterbury Palace was a brick building with an iron roof, 100 ft long by 60 ft wide. A simple plain interior, with a ceiling covered by sheets of lattice. These types of ceiling were a common sight in early theatres and halls in Australia. The front of the theatre was cement-rendered and painted white. The name "Palace" was etched in concrete above one of the three window boxes directly above the front entrance. Behind the three windows was a self-contained apartment running the width of the theatre, and was most likely a caretaker's flat.
A double set of exit doors were situated at street level on each side of the theatre, and a solidly constructed awning was above the main entrance. Upon entering, there was a little ticket window set :behind the right wall. Directly ahead was a double set of entrance doors, and to the left another set of double doors, which were used when things got a little busy, or as an exit after the show.
On both sides of the building were single-fronted shops; at least two and possibly three of them were built as part of the theatre property, the others were privately owned.Over the years the lessees of the theatre shops, for some reason or other, obtained mortgages. The whole side of Canterbury Road formed a sort of shopping complex. The main body of shopping for the locals was located further down to the Post Office and the Canterbury railway station.
The interior of the theatre itself probably had the same layout as in later years. The floor area contained seating divided by two aisles, one directly as you came through the entrance doors, and the other on the left. The ladies toilets were located on the lower right hand corner opposite the stage, and the gents on the left lower corner. An exit corridor running between the gents toilet and the stage led to a double door exit out into the large paddock at the rear of the theatre. There may have been an orchestra pit in front of the stage in the 1920s.[1]

Over the years this house was managed by numerous exhibitors including Bill McKenzie who was exhibitor in the 1930s. The last exhibitor, the late Cecil Horan, operated the Palace for five and a half years prior to closure, screening quality programmes. With eye- catching daily press advertisements, Cecil attracted patrons to the Palace and created a friendly family cinema. He always had a policy of shaking patrons' hands and saying goodnight at the conclusion of every session and encouraged patrons to let him know if they wished to see a particular film. Cecil unfortunately was unable to save the Palace from closure and the final screening was held on Saturday the 12th October, 1960 showing Alfred Hitchcock's - "Shadow of a doubt" also Deanna Durbin in "His Butler's Sister".

After the cinema was closed, the building was converted into an electrical storeroom - Buckley Bros Electrical Showroom. Buckley Bros conducted their electrical shop for the next 38 years. The floor of the theatre was levelled, the exit at th erear was enlarged and a steel roller shutter was installed. The back stage area was built up for a delivery dock, and shop windows were constructed at the front entrance. Other than those changes, the theatre retained most if its original appearance. The final curtain for the Palace came in 1998 when Buckley Bros relocated elsewhere. There was an auction and the former Palace was sold with demolition taking place in the same year.[2]


  1. Williams, Gray. Canterbury's Palace Theatre, Part One. KINO Cinema Quarterly, Autumn 2001. p. 32
  2. Williams, Gray. Canterbury's Palace Theatre, Part Two. KINO Cinema Quarterly, Winter 2001. p. 38