A cinema for the ages

O’Connell Street

By Em Worthington

There’s iconic and then, there’s the Piccadilly Cinema! This historic building has been a focal point of O’Connell Street and Adelaide’s history since the doors opened in 1940 and there are plans to embrace its charm even more so in the near future. Screenings were closed in June 2021 and a careful restoration is now underway. Programming Executive Manda Flett filled us in on some of the plans to reinvigorate this charming building…

“We’re so excited to be lovingly restoring the cinema. There’s so much history in these walls and it’s an honour to be tapping into it. Over the years, some modern features have been added along the way, but there’s still very much an art deco feel, which was so popular at the time the cinema was built, and we’ll be maintaining that,” Manda explains.

“We’ve recently discovered that an original mural of Piccadilly Circus, which was painted by F. Millward Grey is still there over the grand staircase. He went on to become the Director of North Adelaide School of Fine Arts and he taught Nora Heysen, so it’s another nice little link to the area. We can’t see what condition it’s in yet and we’ll have to see whether it can be restored, but it’s a very exciting discovery.

1940s Piccadilly
Piccadilly Mural

“We’ve also just pulled up some carpet in the foyer, which was put down in the eighties and we’ve uncovered the most beautiful terrazzo tiling. Back then, terrazzo floors were very slippery but now there are ways of making sure it’s safe and we are looking into that now — it’s another gem that’s been uncovered. And we were thrilled when we pulled a 35mm projector out of storage and restored it, so we’re looking forward to programming retrospectives and event screenings when we reopen,” Manda says.

As for other works being done, the team plans to maximise the use of this historic building for everyone, including a lift up to Cinema One and making the space appealing to the general public. “The Candy Bar will be redone to make it a beautiful art deco inspired wine bar that’s open for coffee and light refreshments during the day and wine, cocktails and cheese platters in the evening. We’re hoping to have live music on weekends, it will be a lovely space that’s open to everyone, not just cinema goers. Further down the line, we’d also like to incorporate more of the incredible arts scene and Adelaide’s festivals — there are so many possibilities and things we’d love to do, but it will all be done to carefully to preserve what has been loved for so many years,” Manda says.

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So, when can you expect to visit The Piccadilly again? “The Wallis family very much see themselves as custodians of this beautiful building and the team knows it’s incumbent upon us to get it right. It will take time and people are keen to know when we’ll be open again but patience will definitely pay off so keep watching this space!”

The Piccadilly Cinema

181 O’Connell St, North Adelaide


Facebook: @PiccadillyCinema

Instagram: @walliscinemas_piccadilly