Palace Verona Closes as Oxford Street Continues to Die

Palace Verona Closes as Oxford Street Continues to Die
Image: Verona Cinema on Oxford Street in Paddington. Photo: Four Square

Palace Cinemas announced on February 14 that it will be closing the doors to its longstanding and iconic Palace Verona location on Oxford Street after 28 years. This will be followed by the opening of a new location in Moore Park. It is the latest of many Oxford Street locations to either shut its doors or relocate.

In a statement provided to City Hub, Palace Cinemas has stated that this will be a “bittersweet farewell to its beloved Verona Cinema”, with CEO Benjamin Zeccola highlighting that this is “a beautiful full-circle moment”, with the location having “opened its doors on Valentine’s Day 28 years ago”.

For its final showing, Palace Verona is running a special screening of Finnish film Fallen Leaves by Aki Kaurismäki and will reward patrons with a glass of champagne as well as an invitation to the opening of their Moore Park location.

The closure of this local institution, however, is just the latest in a series of iconic and established venues along Oxford Street closing down or re-locating out of what used to be one of Sydney’s premier nightlife spots, contributing to a growing identity crisis.

City Hub reported in late 2022 that 45 shopfronts along Oxford Street were closed due to a combination of Covid-19 and the harsh lockout laws under the previous LNP coalition government. Residents and business owners have also expressed vocal opposition to a proposed cycle path, which some claim will only damage the viability of local businesses further.

Increased instances of homophobic attacks, including an incident involving reality TV star David Subritzky which left him with a bloody lip after being called a “faggot”, have also contributed to fears of Oxford Street losing its identity. A worrying trend in what is supposed to be one of the world’s most iconic Gaybourhoods, some have citied the opening of Noir, a non-LGBTQI nightclub, and the closure of venues in the nearby Kings Cross as the reasons for attracting a new hostile crowd. A petition has been created by locals to have the Noir shutdown due to a number of queer-phobic incidents, citing it as a threat to public safety.   

While the relocation of Palace Cinemas Verona is hardly linked to growing instances of homophobia along Oxford Street, it is still part of a worrying trend. Though the City of Sydney have expressed their desire to revitalise Oxford Street and maintain its cultural identity, the closure of this local institution to some may feel like yet another chapter in the story of Oxford Street’s slow demise.

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