FOND childhood memories of visiting the cinema sparked a lifelong interest in Perth’s historic “picture palaces” for historian Vyonne Geneve.
As founder of the Art Deco Society of WA and member of the National Trust of WA, Geneve has helped ensure about 300 art deco buildings across the state received classification for protection.
Thirteen of these are movie theatres, which feature in her and illustrator Ron Facius’ recent book Picture Palaces of the Golden West, published by the Trust.
“Perth has more art deco cinema buildings left standing than any other capital city in Australia,” she said. “We’d like people to realise how significant they are for WA.”
Calling art deco cinemas her “life interest”, Geneve was spurred to action after returning to Perth in the mid-80s, following a stint in the US researching cinemas.
“I noticed how many buildings had gone down while I was away,” she said.
She founded the society in 1987 and several years later published a thesis titled Versions of Modernism in WA Cin- ema Design 1930-40. Inspired by the thesis, the book is a 10year labour of love comprising historical information, photos, drawings and memories.
“It’s the sort of book people can pick up and put down, and find something new every time,” she said.
Featured and still in use are Windsor Cinemas in Nedlands, Subiaco’s Regal Theatre, Camelot Outdoor Cinema in Mosman Park, Astor Theatre in Mt Lawley and Como’s Cygnet Cinema.
Also included are the former Beacon in South Fremantle, Wembley, Princess in Fremantle and Perth’s Plaza theatres that are occupied commercially, as well as the Piccadilly, closed in 2014.
Choosing her favourite cinema was a challenge, but Geneve said Piccadilly held special memories. Laura Pond
Historian Vyonne Geneve with Illustrator Ron Facius.