Regent Theatre

191 Collins Street,
Melbourne, VIC 3000

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Showing 19 comments

Warner on January 15, 2013 at 9:03 pm

A magnificent theatre.

JohnHolloway on March 19, 2009 at 11:25 am

Undoubtedly a magnificent cinema gem, but as a “live” theatre, leaves a lot to be desired. Designed for film, the circle/balcony is so far removed from the stage that audiences feel they are sitting in the foyer of The Athenaeum Theatre across the street. Since the renovation, the few film presentations (Gone With The Wind/The Wizard Of Oz/High Society/My Fair Lady) and a few “premieres” have been sadly ruined by lack of screen drapes (in situ) and effect lightings surrounding the proscenium. Now air-conditioned, paint work and murals that survived over many years are now peeling due to the effect of humidity control.

MPol on March 4, 2009 at 7:20 pm

Looks like another handsome movie theatre!

donald4564 on May 1, 2008 at 4:08 pm

Here is a website with pages and pages of memorabilia and programmes at the Regent:

ian williams
ian williams on March 8, 2008 at 4:29 am

Just in case you were wondering how this compared to the capacity prior to closure in 1970,

Lounge 388
Circle 807
Back Stalls 1648
Front Stalls 410

Total: 3253.

RKLT on August 21, 2007 at 7:37 pm

Some links between the Regent Theatre & The Victory (now National) in St Kilda. Francis Thring (father of actor Frank Thring)was involved in both as was the architect. The Victory (c1921) was substantially altered in 1928 following the opening of both The Regent and The Palais (ST Kilda) in 1928. In 1970 Hoyts transferred the Regent projection equipment to the Victory where it still remains in perfect working order. Recent Heritage registration was granted to the Victory (National) as well as its contents including the Regent equipment and seating rescued from the now lost Tivoli Theatre.

ian williams
ian williams on June 12, 2007 at 1:24 am

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 !!!

ian williams
ian williams on June 12, 2007 at 1:19 am

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,

donald4564 on August 10, 2006 at 8:44 pm

The first conductor of the Regent Orchestra was Will Cade who went on to form the first ABC Symphony Orchestra in Adelaide. (A film made by Efftee Pictures – Frank Thring’s organisation – and he was one of the original directors of Hoyts who built the Regent – features Will Cade and the Regent Orchestra in selections from “The Desert Song” and was photographed in 1931). Another conductor was Gustave Slapovski who was a pugalist in his spare time. Slapovski first came to Australia in 1913 to conduct the Ring Cycle by Wagner.
In 1931 one of the stage shows featured a full stage production number of Ketelby’s “In a Persian Market”, complete with camels, other assorted animals and two elephants on loan from the Zoo. In the orchestra at the time was a young Bernard (later Sir) Heinze who was to become a famous orchestral conductor.
The first organist was Stanley Wallace, followed very quickly by another American – Eddie
Fitch. Stanfield Halliday played there for many years and even when the orchestras finally went in the early fifties, the Regent still had a resident organist – Tony Fenelon, when it closed for the 2nd time in 1970.
The policy of Hoyts was to employ blondes as usherettes in the Regent and brunettes in the Spanish inspired Plaza below.
What most people remember about the Regent is the wonderful and comfortable leather armchairs which were a feature of the Dress Circle. Happily these were a feature of the current restoration.
A memory of the Regent that stays with me is that of being the only person in the auditorium for a performance of “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum” back in the mid-sixties. The usherette came down to my seat and said the projectionist would like to know what music I’d like him to play prior to the show starting! Of course in those days there was an art to playing a film- dimming the houselights, playing the pageants, then the curtain battons as first the house curtain parted and then the screen tabs…

Suwanti on May 30, 2005 at 8:38 am

Congratulation to the citizen of Melbourne to save and restore this splendour theatre from a lonely cinema researcher in Hong kong.
Raymond Lo/30th May,2005

ian williams
ian williams on September 21, 2004 at 5:27 am

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!!!

ian williams
ian williams on September 21, 2004 at 5:24 am

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’!!!

porterfaulkner on September 18, 2004 at 12:29 pm

The auditorium of the Melbourne Regent was an exact copy of Thomas Lamb’s Capitol Theatre in New York City. The owner of the Regent, producer Francis Thring, was captivated by Thomas Lamb’s work in the USA and insisted on introducing Cedric Ballantyne to him. Ballantyne studied Lamb’s designs and re-cycled many of Lamb’s ideas throughout the Regent circuit in Australia.

Before fire destroyed the auditorium area in 1945 the proscenium had the rounded fan-shape identical to the NYC Capitol which became a house style for the ‘Regents’. This was re-designed and squared off during re-building,the owners Hoyts, hoping to correct a ‘tunneling’ effect that was complained of by patrons seated in the rear balcony. The entirely reconstructed auditorium and renovated foyers reopened for Christmas 1947.

This theatre and the delightful Plaza Theatre below it are truly jewels in Melbourne’s portfolio of beautifully restored theatres. Surely its time to restore one of the most unique cinema treasures in the world; Melbourne’s Capitol Theatre???

paulsp2 on September 18, 2004 at 11:39 am

I believe the procenium was altered after the fire in 1945. Apart from that the auditorium bears a remarkable resemblance to that of the much lamented “Capitol” on Broadway, New York City. Clearly the architect got his inspiration from this fabulous theatre.
Well New York lost its Capitol but Melbourne sensibly retained their great movie palace and the city centre is all the more interesting and vibrant for that!

regenthr on May 31, 2004 at 7:33 am

Interesting comments from all above, but some corrections! Correct date of the fire in 1945, Apr. 29th; reopened on Dec 19th 1947, not 16th. The cause of the fire from a careless smoker was one of two theories about how the fire started. There was a solitary watchman on duty who discovered the blaze on his mandatory 1am round of the building. More likely cause, an electrical fuse above the circle ceiling as there was no apparent fire on the watchman’s 12am round!. The main campaign to save the theatre was initiated by the ‘Save The Regent Theatre Committee’ of which I was a founding member. I was also able to liase with the developers throughout the restoration; and was able to contribute info. to the book published for the theatres reopening in 1996. Whilst the main (original) foyer is described as Spanish Gothic, the auditorium was said to be in the ‘Empire Style’ – whatever that is! I was always led to believe that it was ‘Italian Renaiscence’. But the Plaza downstairs had the full Spanish treatment. Also, perhaps the seating capacity at the top could be shown as of now, 2100, in lieu of its former capacity as noted in the comments?

Ferrito on May 2, 2004 at 10:11 pm

This was the first cinema i started to work in as an assistant projectionist back in 1965 as far as i am concerned it is one of the best cinemas to view a movie It was good sight when we used to fill up with people ejoying the movie
Michael Ferrito

AnthonyJ on November 18, 2003 at 8:08 pm

The Regent Theatre’s original architect was Cedric Ballentine. The exact cause of the fire in 1945 was thought to be that caused by a careless smoker, but never determined. The Theatre’s auditorium was rebuilt by examining original architectural drwaings and photographs from 1929. The citizens of Melbourne lead a campaing to save this theatre for over 20 years while it remained ‘dark’. Take a look inside the gothic-inspired foyer and see what all the fuss is about – it’s the stuff dreams are made of.

Edd on November 6, 2002 at 2:24 am

The Regent theatre’s foyer was saved in the fire of 1945 and is the same one you see today. (Plus a bit of paint!!)