Step back in time at the Piccadilly Cinema

O’Connell Street

By Em Worthington

Many moons ago, a trip to the cinema was a real occasion — filled with wonder and a sense of luxury. The reopening of the iconic Piccadilly Cinema on O’Connell Street in North Adelaide allows you to step back in time to embrace the old-school glamour of days gone by.

Originally swinging open its doors in 1940, this historic building has remained as a focal point over the years, before screenings closed in June 2021 to take the experience to a whole new level. In the past 14 months the building has been restored, seamlessly blending modern features and the unmistakable charm of the original art deco vibe.

“The Piccadilly is owned by the Wallis family, who very much see themselves as custodians of the beautiful building and believed that the place deserved to be restored to its original grandeur — it was imperative that they get any restoration just right. They wanted to showcase the building, which lends itself to the idea that cinema is an event, with entertainment wrapped around the actual watching of film. IA Design and Premier Building Solutions have tapped into the history within the walls and while they’ve added some modern features, the art deco feel that was so popular at the time the cinema was first built has been lovingly maintained,” says Programming Executive Manda Flett.

The restoration and rejuvenation, which cost more than $2 million, uncovered some stunning original features, including the striking terrazzo floor in the foyer that had been covered up with carpet. “The floor is original and had been covered up since the 80s — possibly longer. Everyone is thrilled with the vibrancy of the colour after so many years,” Manda says.


An original mural of Piccadilly Circus, which was painted by F. Millward Grey and sits proudly over the grand staircase, has been uncovered and is being restored by Adelaide-based Artlab Australia; while a 35mm projector is once again functional after being in storage for more than a decade. “We’re extremely excited to the only be the only major cinema in Adelaide to offer 35mm screenings, and we’ll be presenting a slate of 35mm screenings in 2023. Many films were filmed on a 35mm format throughout film history, continuing into the present day, and its fidelity provides a quality of image that can only be seen when presented on celluloid — similar to the way that music sounds when listening to a record, rather than an MP3,” Manda explains.

A replica of the original eye-catching Piccadilly signage is also in the works — all unique aspects that have contributed to the excitement of a gala launch. “It was a wonderful way to celebrate the achievement. Everyone was excited to see the historical features brought back to life, and many have remarked on how inviting the space is,” Manda says.

“It’s a trip back in time but the venue is now fully accessible, including the installation of two lifts, providing access to Cinemas One and Two (previously only accessible via stairs), as well as the mezzanine — something that was very important to the Wallis family. In addition to a new candy and ticket counter, a vintage-inspired licenced lounge now serves up coffee and light refreshments during the day, and wine, cocktails and cheese platters in the evening, so it can be enjoyed by anyone, not just cinema goers. A variety of cocktails and South Australian wines and beers can be taken into any screening, along with a small menu of gourmet foods,” explains Manda.

Lift Access

The Piccadilly will continue to host regular arthouse screenings, event presentations, new-release mainstream films, as well as incorporating the arts scene and Adelaide’s vibrant festivals, starting with its own Fringe event, the Programmer’s Pick Film Festival. “It’s a celebration of films that our programming team wouldn’t be able to show at any other time. There’s a mix of weird and wonderful films — something for everyone!”

And these jaw-dropping improvements are not the end, with further transformations set to come. “One of the main aims of stage two will be to create a boutique screening room in one of the smaller cinemas downstairs where patrons can be seated in beautifully crafted large chairs with little tables and be served food and drinks during the film — similar to the layout of a cabaret club.

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“Subsequent stages will see the transformation of the venue into a multipurpose art space, providing a variety of live-performance opportunities for patrons and performers. There are so many possibilities — but above all, we are so excited to welcome everyone to enjoy a unique experience for all the senses,” Manda says.

The Piccadilly is now open, screening a range of films such as the blockbuster epic Avatar: the Way of Water; exciting family films, such as Puss in Boots: the Last Wish; Oscar contender The Banshees of Inisherin; and Palme D’Or Winner, Triangle of Sadness.

The Piccadilly Cinema

181 O’Connell St, North Adelaide

Facebook: @PiccadillyCinema

Instagram: @the_piccadilly