101-107 Rundle Mall,
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One of the most glamorous and beautiful of Australian picture palaces was The Regent Theatre, located on Rundle Street. It opened on June 29, 1928 with the features, MGM’s “Flesh and the Devil” and Fox’s “The Gay Retreat”. There was an orchestra of 16 players. The Wurlitzer 3Manual 15Ranks theatre pipe organ was installed some three months after the gala opening at a cost of 25,000 pounds ($AUD50,000) and premiered on September 22, 1928 with American organist Ray de Clemens, who took up a 3-month residency.
It was the third Regent Theatre in the Hoyts Theatres chain to open, after Perth and Sydney. It was also one of the first public buildings in Adelaide to be air-conditioned. The huge auditorium in Spanish-Moroccan style seated 2,300 patrons. A highly arched proscenium was the focal point and was bathed in a range of subdued colors. From behind the intricate grille-work in and around the proscenium, emanated the distinctly rich sounds of the mighty Wurlitzer. Stage shows were also always a part of the Regent Theatre presentations. A massive crystal chandelier hung above the lounge circle, and there were other smaller versions placed around the theatre.
In December 1953, the first CinemaScope film “The Robe” opened for an eight week run. In late-1959, TV came to South Australia and theatre attendances started to dwindle. In 1961, the theatre closed for three weeks so that six shops could be built along one side of the stalls, with the shops facing out onto a laneway at the side of the theatre. 298 stalls seats were lost, leaving the theatre with 1,964 seats.
In 1967, plans were drawn by architect Peter Muller to create an arcade in the stalls area to accommodate 38 shops at ground level. The Paris Theatre behind the Regent Theatre was also demolished and rebuilt. The Wurlitzer organ was then removed and is now installed in the Memorial Hall at St. Peters College. The newly revamped Regent Theatre re-opened on 30th May 1968 with “In the Heat of the Night”. It incorporated the former ceiling and side walls of the original dress circle, some of the white marble from the grand staircase which led from the foyer, and most of the original 1928 facade.
The much smaller Regent Theatre now seated only 894 on a one raked level, using the former dress circle area. The latest projection equipment capable of most film formats was installed, including Cinerama on the 70 foot screen.
The Regent Theatre’s future was in doubt for quite some time and it closed on 28th January 2004. The building was further gutted internally to become part of the shopping centre.
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