Regent Theatre

101-107 Rundle Mall, Regent Arcade,
Adelaide, SA 5000

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Adelaide Regent Auditorium.

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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.

Contributed by KinoCQ/Australian Cinema And Theatre Society

Recent comments (view all 19 comments)

Sticks
Sticks on December 7, 2005 at 12:35 am

I was one of the patrons of the old Regent and often went to films on Saturday Nights in the 50’s and 60’s. I wonder if Rex has a list of the films that followed The Robe on the big screen from the 1953 opening? The memory is fading.

A wonderful climb up the marble staircase to the lovely lady at the top and then Knight Barnett the best.

Desmond
Desmond on December 7, 2005 at 6:51 am

Dear cinemascope,
When CinemaScope was installed in the Regent, the Theatre was leased directly to Hoyt’s theatres. Hoyts at that time was owned by 20th Century Fox. From this information you can be reasonable sure that any 20th Century Fox Cinemacope films were screened at the Regent under the screening policies in force at that time. The only other outlet for 20th Century Fox movies was at the Plaza behind the Regent. This does not mean that other cinemas did not gain access to cinemascope pictures but the majority of the ‘Fox CinemaScope pictures would certainly have been initially screened at The Regent. Two I remember were; “Boy on A Dolphin” and of course the sequel to The Robe, “Demetrius And The Gladiators.” You may find (via Google) a listing on the net of 'Fox CinemaScope films from various sites on the net. This may help trigger your memory. You could also consult the local Adelaide Advertiser newspaper archive and look up the amusement pages of those early years. The theatre is still dormant?

Sticks
Sticks on December 7, 2005 at 2:41 pm

Thanks Des for that information.

(I am so glad you answered as just this morning I “lost” my computer and thus the link I had put into favourites and have just re loaded from a previous ghost to find your reply. Then of course I have had trouble logging back in to post this reply).

I wonder if I could ask what was the screen size of the old cinemascope screen before the 1968 rebuild? If I read the above info correctly the 1968 screen was 70 feet with a 15 ft curve.

I also just this week managed to locate a 33 record of Knight Barnett at the Wurlitzer Organ (Showtime Evergreens). I guess it was recorded at St Peters. I notice from the text on the cover – Knight fondly calls the organ “The Daddy of them all”.

All interesting stuff to ponder. Thanks Des

Sticks
Sticks on December 7, 2005 at 3:40 pm

Further to the above, after doing some searching on Cinemascope the following web site is worth a visit I think:

View link

Did we ever see Caprice in Adelaide? It was the last 20th Century Fox Cinemascope film made it seems.

PS: I have always been interested in “Cinemascope” having shot my first film in 1967 using a 1.75 squeeze anamorphic lens on a 8mm camera (dreadfull image). I have for about 4 years been shooting 16:9 and 2.35 anamorphic on a mini DV camera and have made my own DVD’s of my travels etc since early 2000. There is no bigger challenge at consumer level than this stuff.

Desmond
Desmond on December 8, 2005 at 4:49 am

Cinemascope, I am not certain what you mean by “last 20th Century Fox CinemaScope film” as I have screened many CinemaScope films from 20th Century Fox upto and including this month. Perhaps you are referring to the original Bosch and Lomb lenses which have been replaced by the superior Panavision lenses. In any case the name CinemaScope is still held by 20th Century Fox and they are certainly releasing films in 2.35 anamorphic as are most of the other studios. I am glad you have found the Widescreen Museum as it is one the best sights on the web. It has a mountain of information on all of the wide screen processes. The mini DV is certainly offering all of us the opportunity to be film-makers. Hope to screen your movie one day.

Sticks
Sticks on December 9, 2005 at 10:46 pm

Thanks again Des, yes sorry for not stating the B & L name in my statement of “the last”.

The web site noted above is indeed full of the most interesting information.

I notice the handbook on Cinemascope indicates it was desirable to curve the screen based on the projection throw and required width. Height and “depth of curve” results. Shorter the throw the deeper the curve I guess for a given width. It is interesting to look up figures that result in the 70 foot wide 15 foot screen depth mentioned in your rebuild posting for the 1968 screen.

Thanks again, cheers!

Desmond
Desmond on December 10, 2005 at 3:34 am

The 70 foot screen with the 15 curve was part of the 1968 install of the D150 equipment. This was primarily for 70mm film presentation.
The Cinemascope screen was quite somewhat smaller. Under the guidlines in vogue at the time the idea was to make 70mm look as large as possible while keeping the presentaion of 35mm including of course, CinemaScope, to the then accepted sizes for best resolution.
This was based on the old SMPTE or AMPAS specifacation of the 35mm being no wider than 25 feet. CinemaScope was a way of increasing the picture width beyond that limit. The height was maintained by selection of the prime lens. The audience was then suitably impressed as the 70mm was both higher and wider.
In the original Regent as pictured here (see above) the proscenium arch was designed to frame the Academy ratio of 1.33:1. The arch was destroyed in the 1968 refit. The idea was for CinemaScope to be a poor man’s Cinerama which had the very deep curve. As you can see the curved screen would not have fitted into the space behind the proscenium and maintained its omnipotent visual power. Also most cinema owners could not afford or justify the cost of expanding their screens to a large curve, even if they could fit them in to the space with the result that most CinemaScope screens were flat or with a slight curve. (Many disasters occurred in fitting CinemaScope screens incorrectly.)
I no longer have the figures for the original screen size but if you look at picture above and superimpose a rectangle(2.35:1 that fits inside the arch you have a fair idea if the cinemaScope piture size. I doubt if it was more than forty feet or so.
Your reference to “depth of curve” was to correct for the projection lens distance to the screen so that the picture would maintain focus across the curve of the screen.
The deep curves of Cinemarama or D150 type screens were solely to envelop the audience in the action and were much deeper than these “lens curves”. Again the Widescreen Museum site has incredible detail contained in its pages on these matters.
As for the Regent, only the best was near good enough and no expense was spared to maintain it.
Knight Barnett use to do an organ radio broadcast “from the stage of the Regent Theatre Adelaide” for the ABC till around 1964 I think. If I remember correctly a recording was issued by the ABC.
You may also be interested in seeing the theatre organ at the Capri Theatre. Details at their website: http://www.capri.org.au/ The Capri also shows films in the grand old style. They have a theatre organ CD available. (No, I do not have any affiliation with the Capri except as a cinema patron.)
The Regent was also used for live performance from time to time and during the 1962 Adelaide Festival of Arts. It was after all a fully equipped live theatre in its day.
I hope this helps with your questions.

npalmer
npalmer on July 27, 2006 at 1:18 am

Good information on the Regent can be found here:
View link

PreserveHistory12
PreserveHistory12 on December 13, 2011 at 5:08 am

i dont understand why adelaide city council gets it soo wrong all the time when so often they can get it so right….. Example – North Terrace, amazing with the bench seats, box hedges, grass etc or another example Adelaide Arcade, just Amazingly preserved.

However….then look at Regent Arcade they have approved for a horrible globalize music pounding store to move in upstairs rather than keep the amazing cinema that was previously there, it could have been incredibly restored and sold to Wallis for instance. If you haven’t already seen it, well the latest in Regent arcade, they removed the beautiful painted ceiling at the end of the arcade as well as the large lead light glass spelling out Regent Arcade and some of the bay window shopping outfits. In its place floor to floor glass. Lovely, now the arcade has floor to floor glass on the entrance from grenfell street, half dwn the arcade are the old beautiful bay window fronts, you reach the end of the arcade and greeted with cheap and nasty glass windows with a rust looking light fixture at the tops of the doorways and booming music from the globalize store has consumed the old theatre space (not to mention the graffiti art they have allowed on the change room doors) how offensive to the history of the place. You would imagine that it would be heritage listed and protected – afraid not its now a ruin of another sort.

How disappointing that melbourne and sydney seem to recognise the importance of the old and new they pull off the restorations so well however, adelaide appear to fail every time. Regent arcade could have been high class shopping boutiques now its trash the shops dont even complement themselves.

THE END, (PS. Please feel free to comment love to hear others opinions). And just to clarify im not dissing contemporary shopping fitouts, rather suggesting a more tasteful, considered approach would be much more successful for both the owner and consumer. Look at Royal Aracde Melbourne or Queen Victoria Building, Sydney.

mals
mals on May 29, 2013 at 4:55 am

I totally agree with PreserveHistory12……….

I have such a good memory with some of Adelaide’s wonderful Cinemas or Theatres as they were known. I can remember queuing along with the rest of the eager teenagers back in 64' to see ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ & looking around at how Grand it looked with that huge looking Eagle looking down on everyone…………. Does anyone remember the ‘Fresco’ on the Ceiling…absolutely beautiful! I get annoyed when i think how our wonderful Theatres have been destroyed to make way for so called progress….around the world….UK London eg. USA etc have kept some of their wonderful Treasures [ Theatres]for all to see for future generations…….. Shame on Adelaide……just a mass of glass, sterile looking & boring…. My dau. came back from UK & said London was great & saw some wonderful Theatres that hadn’t changed & she said now i know what you were talking about in regards to Adelaide’s old Theatres………………………..

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