Palais Theatre History

For over 100 years the Palais Theatre has been a place where memories were created: children performed for family and friends, young women came out at debutante balls, people of all ages enjoyed films, weddings, dances and concerts.

In a region renowned for its cultural, social, religious and political diversity, the Palais has remained the repository of the community's common unifying experiences.  

The Palais Theatre Book

Tasmanian historian Ruth Young presents a fascinating history of the Franklin Palais from the perspective of Franklin’s inhabitants. Despite Franklin being the first free white settlement in Tasmania, it has received little attention from historians. This book describes the various uses to which the Palais was put: library, cinema, dance hall, and its near demise in recent time. But this is not about the building alone; Ruth weaves a fascinating account of the interactions between the inhabitants of the Huon Valley and the wider world’s wars, depressions, booms and social change. Her gift is to convey all this from primary sources: newspaper accounts, government archives, oral recordings, in language that’s easily understood.

Price: AUD$35.00 (postage $8.00 Aust only). To purchase a copy, please email your details to:


Key milestones for the Palais Theatre:

  • Opened as `Town Hall` in 1912 by the Governor of Tasmania Sir Harry Barron.
  • Seat of local government until 1929 when offices moved to Huonville.
  • First movie shown was in 1912. Used electric light from a generator.
  • Used as a cinema from 1930 to 1960. From 1960s to the mid 80s used for local amateur theatrical productions, balls and concerts.
  • From the mid 1980s, the Palais was increasingly neglected and intermittently vandalised.
  • In 1987, the local Council called a meeting at which demolition of the building was proposed, but this met with strenuous community opposition and did not proceed.
  • It was used spasmodically until 1994 as a venue for a boxing club, a badminton team, basketball practice, a youth club. All of which led to further deterioration and resulted in no improvements.
  • In 1995 - 1996 its main use was a Sunday Food and Craft Market.
  • The Franklin Progress Association (FPA) involvement in the Palais increased in 1997 when a Council working party proposed the formation of the Palais Theatre Management Committee as a sub-committee of Council and invited the FPA to recruit this Committee from its membership. Council provided this Committee with an annual budget of $2,000 for maintenance.
  • In 1998, a local organization, Southern Training Employment and Placement Solutions Inc. (STEPS) managed a `work for the dole` program on behalf of FPA, which successfully renovated plasterwork, flooring and painted the main auditorium in authentic heritage style.
  • In 2000, FPA organized a spectacular re-opening for the Theatre, by the Governor, Sir Guy Green, followed by a Grand Ball, which captured the atmosphere of the great balls held at the Palais in the past.
  • FPA canvassed the community for ideas and went on to run an extensive program of events that included production of three major entrepreneurial events of its own. It also managed a Theatre bar for a total of 47 events, supported 25 other organisations by providing a venue for meetings, rehearsals, film evenings and performances, and attracted 10,000 patrons.
  • Many performers and several other organisations donated time, expertise and money to achieve physical improvements to the Palais and the varied nature of events performed in the last two years.
  • Work was completed in December 2002 on new toilets relieving the need for volunteers to fetch and return portable units, a task involving a 200 km journey per use.

The works to date have generated renewed community interest and pride. The important cultural role of the Palais Theatre, formerly neglected and a target for vandalism, is now recognised. It is once again being used for the purpose its original builders intended ; to bring the community together and add to the quality of life of the people.

There is a desire to collect as much information about the history of the Palais and Franklin in general. If you have any photographs, posters or any other historical information we would love to obtain a copy for our archives and display.

If you have any personal historical information about the Palais or Franklin please contact us at