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A lady I knew in America wanted to open a pizza parlour in Melbourne which would have featured a Wurlitzer organ plaaying nightly, and I would have been manager. I had proposed converting the stalls for the restaurant side with an intimate cinema in the former circle. Much the same as the State theatre in Flinder St. was converted by Greater Union in 1962. The theatre was subsequently destroyed by a suspicious fire.
When Chanel 7 gave up their use aas a tele theatre, there was a proposal for use as a legit theatre by the small Last Laugh theatre nearby. The local coincil insisted on x number of parking spaces which the owners could not provide and the theatre was demolished.
What a sad street Hollywood Blvd. is now. Only saving grace for movie buffs is the El Capitan beautifly restored by Disney from the horrible modern plaster treatment by Paramount circa 1960? Also with the former 4/36 Wurlitzer from possibly the greatest movie palace of all, the Fox Theatre in San Francisco! Of course, Grauman’s Chinese goes on as usual. IMHO, the most beautifl thetrein the LA area is the Los Angeles in Downtown LA. 2nd? The Pantages; 3rd. The Chinese. The Los Angeles is avalable for film shoots @ $10,000 a day!!!
Ian Williams, Founding Member, Save The Regent Theatre (Melbourne) Committee. LOOK UP MY WEB PAGE for the TRUE story of the fight to save this theatre which has been my life’s love. I am the ONLY member of a cetain film society who has had a long association
with this hstoric theatre right through the restoration period. Have they ever ‘reconized’ this? NOT BLOODY LIKELY !!!
…………………….The Ghost That Won’t Lie Dpwn"
Just in case you were wondering how this compared to the capacity prior to closure in 1970,
Back Stalls 1648
Front Stalls 410
Wonderful shots of the Odeon-that-was Ken! All the more sad that ‘progress’ dictated conversion to an every day soulless multiplex.
Many thanks …… Ian W in far away Melbourne!
Woops, got cut off re Limelight!!!! For this one, people loved this Chaplin movie so much, they started applauding it, but were cut off as the organist came on with the national anthem. I changed this so that we reinstated the end titles which gave the applause time to die down before the anthem was played. At least the titles weren’t as long as every movie has them today. Best tea lady; assistant to the senior coach driver; the secretary who typed the script – BAH !!!
Well donald4564! Rather belatedly I am querying one ‘fact’ in your comments above, have been meaning to reply for ages!!! You say you were sitting in the Regent for Funny Thing / Forum? This movie was screened at the Athenaeum opposite the Regent. And for the projectionist to know that you were sitting in the auditorium, you would have to be in the second balcony where the box is located? I shall be interested if you are sure that it was Forum that you were to see, or maybe a different movie, but in the Regent???
Otherwise, if I was still managing, there would always be curtains before and at the end. AND we used to cut those dam titles of any movie that went over the top – South Pacific at the Esquire for one!
Limelight at the Rergent Limelight at the Regent also,
A better track record – certainly Mark. But RMIT aren’t doing anyhing much with the theatre despite all the plans the I have heard about over the last few years – they even lost a good manager through his frustration about ‘non theatre’ people who make decisions. Any further restoration should include computerising the ceiling lighting so that each row changes colour seperately as originally
designed, not each colour on one swith for the whole ceiling. The university have plans to develop the old Carlton and United Brewries site at Swanston and Victoria Sts. in a few years time. After that, they may not have a need for the theatre. One could ask the question – Quo Vadis?
Donald454, The candelabras – wood and brass? I presume that you haven’t seen them at the National Gallery, they were on exhibition a few years ago. Maybe the arms which held the crystal pieces and candle lamps were brass; the centre stem? Can’t be sure what was inside what looked like an outer glass casing. If you like, I can check with another ex manager,maybe a revelation just what they were made of! With the stalls entrance, there was no tunnel, just a small carpeted landing a few stairs up from the marble entrance floor. See my photo collection in the Cinema and Theatre Historical Society page www.caths.org.au
Yes, All the bxw ones of the original theatre are from my personal collection. They were originally shot for Hoyts when they took over the lease ( Dec. 1941?). I also have quite a few of the Regent 1929 and 1947 auditoriums, plus the Plaza, ditto.
Well ’M' (Mike or Mark?) Like all things pre computer, lighting was changed by the electrician on stage left by a series of dimmers over the six main rows. He would say, take out the whites on the bottom row with one hand as he brought in one of the colours on the next dimmer with the other hand! By the end of Hoyts lease, there were so many globe out that we brought all colours on together to hide the black blank spots. I was the last asst. manager and was fighting back the tears on that, the saddest last night. However, I was to return in triumph eighteen months laster as house manager. First, I went crook that when the ceiling had been rewired (current had to be changed from DC to AC), all of each colour came on over the entire ceiling! This was now controlled by a panel in the bio box! So that put the khyber on the old row by row pattern. Yes, the ceiling should now be rewired – cost about $1,000,000. The beauty of this is that the lighting pattern could then be set to operate to any order, obviating the cumbersome manual way of old. Sometimes computers can be useful!!! Not holding my breath for this to happen, the current owners, RMIT University are cash strapped and are not theatre people. I still think that the theatre will be ‘on the market’ when they get some other developements completed in ??? years time! Please contact me at any time re the Capitol or Regent Theatres! I am on
Glad to hear from you Craig! Gosh, maybe when the ceiling is repainted etc., some white knight will come up with the money to rewire and computerise it as it so badly needs! Of course, the tragedy is that revenue from hirings of the theatre never go to fully restore the auditorium and original circle foyer. Whilst the latter was used for receptions, product launches in your time as manager, it would surely generate its own hirings if properly restored to its former glory. Look at the restoration of the Plaza Ballroom!!! Would lik to hear from you sometime; email me on
CConnolly hits the mark with his comment about today’s movies! Fo me too much C.B.W – Crash, bang, wallop!!! Also a good comparison is in telling the life story of Cole Porter. Warners ‘Night and Day’ was made for entertainment; his homosexuality kept quiet. Would the latest ‘version’ of his life, warts and all, in ‘De-lovely’ have been a big hit at perhaps the Capitol around the late forties??? OK, it would have gone to the Warner!!!
I wonder how many of you know of the ‘political’ decision that denied the Fox of the world premiere of Gone With The Wind? As I heard some time ago, Loews owned the downtown Grand Theatre, but only leased the Fox at the time that GWTW came long. As it was compamy policy that Loews would only screen this important movie at theatres that they actually owned – the Fox missed out! I would be interested if any one can elaborate on this. By the way, when did the Grand close amd what happened to the site?
Thomas Lamb’s Regent Theatr, a movie palace? Hardly! Unless you are comparing it to the nickel odeons scattered around the city in the first part of the century. What is the definition of a movie palace anyway? Size or architecture? I would say that in size, at least 2000 seats. Architecture – something overwhelming – whatever style!!!
Sunday Nov. 7th 2004 was the 80th birthday of this greatest of world movie palaces. As asst. manager, it was the saddest night of my life when it closed in 1964, I was 99% close to tears. I went back eighteen months later as manager to re-open it – the happiest time of my life! I have also taken tours through it for the university. It has some commercial hirings, but sadly the university shove the money into their general revenue instead of restoration. The uni. are currently in financial trouble and won’t spend a cent onthe theatre. Even the knowledgable manager has left in disalusionment. What is really needed is $1,000,000 to rewire the magnificent ceiling, (4000 globes with colour changes from white to red, blue and green) for fibre optic lighting and a full computerised cycle. This would then bring its glory back to the 1924 style for the first time in half a century! My sign in ‘regenthr’ is for my association with saving the other movie palace here, the Regent Theatre. Contact me any time for info on either theatre!
Also, the Regent houses the largest Wurlitzer in the country, a 4/36 first installed in the Granada Theatre on Market St San Francisco. I have shown slides of the Regent and Capitol at theatre conventions in New York and chicago the last couple of years; next year in L.A! Be there!!!
As one of the handful of people who mounted the successful campaign to save the Regent, I can feel some pride in that fact! I was assistant manager during the fab ‘50s and saw the introduction of Cinemascope there, plus Cinerama at the Plaza. The Capitol is another integral part of my life. Sadly RMIT have put on hold plans for further restoration. There are 4000 fibre optic globes sitting in an office which should have gone in with a $200,000 rewiring of the ceiling. This would be the first time in FORTY years that the ceiling would operate as it did from its original opening. The breed name of my new German Shepherd puppy is named for the theatre – Kanekara (the breeder) Capitol Horsaal. The latter word I looked up in a German-English dictionary, means 'auditorium’!!!