Fremantle Stuff > cinemas > Princess

Princess Theatre

The Princess Theatre was on the corner of Leake and Market Streets. It was built in 1912 by C. Moore to the design of architect John McNeece for Frank Biddles, and closed in 1969. David Hutchison explains that the theatre building was an extension to Princess Chambers, which had been built for Biddles in 1897.

The entrance was where Kakulas Sister now trades, and some of the theatre masonry can still be seen in the shop. The auditorium is now used as a warehouse, so the building as such must still be in reasonable condition. It's on the Register of the National Estate, though I suspect that the part they're most interested in is the two-storey offices-and-shops building on the corner. The Leake St auditorium is now completely separated from what was the Market St entrance. The walkway between is now a laneway, storage, and the Leake St Cafe.

See also: Princess Chambers

See also: photos showing the interior c. 2009

And see also: Leake St Cafe (between former cinema entrance and auditorium)

Before the Theatre was built, this was the location of the Race Horse Inn, from about 1850 until the Theatre was built in 1912.

Princess Theatre

The Lady of the Harem (announced on the marquee) was released in the USA at the end of 1926, so this photograph would have been taken in 1927. Cook & Son was only so-called from 1919: before which Cook's partner was one Bayly. Image from the Fremantle History Centre, #4568.

Princess Theatre

Another photograph from the Fremantle City Library Local History Collection (#964) this one taken by Roy Mudge in the late 1960s, so not long before the cinema closed. He also shot the interior—perhaps the same day?

These three photographs from the Fremantle City Library Local History Collection (#965, 966, $967) were also taken by Roy Mudge. The first one, taken from the front of the auditorium, shows damaged seats in the front row, suggesting that the operator was losing interest in maintenance.

The proscenium is surprisingly plain.

The dress circle is in better repair than the front stalls, and shows some engaging plasterwork below the ceiling, and thicker pile carpet to the floors.

Princess Theatre

Kakulas Sister has moved their sign down a bit (thank you) to reveal the pre-1969 Princess Theatre painted sign.

Princess Theatre

Princess Theatre

In this one, you can see the metal the sign was painted on, at least forty years ago, and possibly sixty or more. Update: I notice that the old sign is fading and may need to be repainted as there appears to be an intention to retain it.

This one shows the relationship between the two buildings, the one on the left containing at its rear the former Princess Theatre cinema, and the one on the right called Princess Chambers containing a warren of offices and shops.

Inside Kakulas Sister, the impressive entry into the Princess Theatre is still to be seen, heading west towards the former cinema.

Also inside Kakulas Sister, on the south wall, someone has exposed some of the 1930s wallpaper: chinoiserie.

Detail from the wallpaper.

Princess Theatre

Here's the offices/shops part of the Princess Theatre building, from the side, in Leake St.

Princess Theatre

And here's the Leake St side of the cinema auditorium part of the building. Access may apparently be obtained through one of those doors—but you'd have to know the right person, I guess.

Princess Theatre

A photograph from a few years ago shows the KAKULAS SISTER name on the awning concealing the Princess Theatre sign. The Kakulas sign has now been moved down a bit to reveal the pre-1969 paint.

Princess Theatre

In the 1980s a new role was foreseen for the theatre building, as reported in the article which follows. I don't know if the markets actually took place, but the interior is now used merely for storage. Photograph above from the Fremantle City Library Local History Collection (#4568).

princess interior

princess article

Some shots of the interior stripped of furniture, date unknown, probably c. 1970.

Notes and acknowledgements

Many thanks to John Reed.

Images and newspaper article, as indicated, thanks to the Fremantle History Centre.

References and Links

Paul Weaver wrote a great blog entry in 2004 about working at the Princess Theatre as an assistant projectionist.

The Princess Theatre is mentioned briefly in:

Ron Davidson, Fremantle Impressions, Fremantle Press, 2007: 129. As it's less than one sentence, I may as well quote the mention in full: '... Princess Theatre in Leake Street (now an office-furniture warehouse but still with its dress circle, the large projection box, and some thirties theatre decoration intact ...'

David Hutchison, Fremantle Walks, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2006: 144.

WA CinemaWeb page

State Heritage Office entry

Max D. Bell, Perth: A Cinema History, Book Guild, Sussex: 41-2.

Organ Society of Western Australia

Wikipedia page

Garry Gillard | New: 23 June, 2013 | Now: 6 May, 2019