Love of movies inspires Vyonne Geneve to write Picture Palaces of the Golden West book

Historian Vyonne Geneve with illustrator Ron Facius. Picture: Jon Hewson           d457156
Historian Vyonne Geneve with illustrator Ron Facius. Picture: Jon Hewson         d457156

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. We’d like people to realise how significant they are for WA,” she said.

Calling art deco cinemas her “life interest”, Geneve was spurred to action after returning to Perth in the mid-1980s, following a stint in the US researching their cinemas.

“I noticed how many buildings had gone down in that time 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 Cinema Design 1930-40.

Inspired by the thesis, the book is a 10-year labour of love and comprises 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 are the still used 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 Theatre, which closed in 2014.

Choosing her favourite cinema was a challenge but Geneve said the Piccadilly, which closed in 2014, held special memories.

“I remember going there as a child; I remember the mirrors, the furniture, the ticket box,” she said.

“I loved (the cinemas) for their beauty.”


The Weekender has three copies of Picture Palaces to give away.

Name three art deco cinema buildings still standing in Perth and send along with your name, address and daytime phone number to Picture Palaces Giveaway, PO Box 885, Joondalup WA 6919. Or email