Welcome to “Vella Plaza”, originally “The Plaza Movie Theatre”, located at 108 Mulgrave Road, Cairns, Queensland.

“The Plaza Movie Theatre” building was officially opened on the 9th October 1940. It was designed to seat 600 patrons and was built by the “QLD Building and Construction Co”. The construction supervisor, Mr Cavanagh, stated:

“This fine building is constructed with the most modern lines, equipped with the most modern electric devices for operating the curtains and provides a pleasing blend of green & gold colours”.

The opening address was a gala affair jointly presented by his worship the Mayor, Alderman Collins, and the Manager of Northern Theatre Pty Ltd, Mr J.S. Morris. The first movie shown was the “Wizard of Oz”.

The building opened in uncertain times, as by 1940 the Second World War had commenced and Cairns had become an Army base for a large contingent of American and Australian soldiers. As a gesture of goodwill, the troops were invited to watch the movies at reduced prices, with the proceeds diverted to supporting Australian troops defending the British Empire.

Vella Plaza Restoration – Before

Vella Plaza Restoration – During

Vella Plaza Restoration – After

Many fond memories emanated from The Plaza Theatre, with several Cairns elders (predominantly ladies!) having admitted to sneaking their first ever kiss with loved ones, whilst snuggled up in the back rows.

The Plaza Theatre provided entertainment to locals for 32 years before closing in 1972 due to fierce competition from the introduction of television and the establishment of a popular local “drive-in” movie theatre. After the theatre closed it became a home for businesses Geo Pickers and then TeleTalk.

Former theatre employees were adamant that a ghost shared the property, citing the regular disappearance and reappearance of items in a different location as evidence of its existence. The live-in-manager of TeleTalk, Rod Harris, who occupied the building back in 2002, often heard strange noises in the night, but reassures it must be a “friendly” ghost because the building always had a lovely karma about it.

Joe Vella loved the building and saw great potential in it as headquarters for JVIB, thus he purchased the building in March 2007 when it came onto the market. The enormous job of restoring the Plaza Theatre to its former glory took many hours of research. With very little photographic history of the original building available he turned his research to many art deco books for assistance.

Joe worked closely with the builder, Richard Field Constructions, and after several delays and a cost of nearly $2,000,000 the restoration was completed in December 2008. The JVIB team moved from their premises in Pease Street, Manunda to their new head office located at Vella Plaza on the 1st Floor, 108 Mulgrave Road, Cairns in December 2008.

The building restoration gained much public attention and received an award from the Cairns Regional Council for “Excellence in Design Award 2010 – Adaptive re-use of a Character Building” presented to Joe Vella Insurance Group for the Vella Plaza by Mayor Val Schier in February 2010.