Regent Theatre

117 S. Limestone Street,
Springfield, OH 45502

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The top screen of the Regent Theater

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Regent Theatre is located on South Limestone Street in downtown Springfield just one block up from the State Theatre on South Fountain Avenue. It was originally built as a vaudeville theatre, and during this period and up to the 1950’s, the office of Gus Sun, a relatively well known vaudeville booking agent/manager, was above the theatre. By 1941 it was operated by Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp.

The Regent Theatre was a single screen theatre with a balcony, which would later serve as a second screen to make Regent Cinemas. The Regent Cinemas was closed by Chakeres in January 1991 and is currently for sale.

The Regent Theatre has had a lot of groups look at it, but sadly, like a lot of Chakeres Theatres, years of neglect before it’s closing, in addition to being empty for over a decade, each passing day gets darker for the Regent Theatre.

Contributed by Mike Hoyts

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner on January 18, 2010 at 11:01 am

Chuck,
I had no idea. Just trying to keep up with places of interest. Very sorry for the trouble.
Jack

alans61377
alans61377 on March 15, 2010 at 12:30 pm

The Regent Twin Cinemas, as they had become known at the time, actually closed on January 31, 1992, following the 9:30 PM showing of “Love Crimes” starring Sean Young, and the 10 PM showing of “Juice” starring Tupac Shakur. I still have the Springfield News-Sun article on the closing of the Regent. At current the Regent has sat vacant and in bad disrepair since the January, 1992 closing. A News-Sun article in 2003 said that the building would cost millions to rehab it, and Chakeres commented that “They’re not in the theater restoration business”. Sad.

themel
themel on March 29, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Took some photos on a recent visit. Looks like it was a great place back in its heyday.

Mike Richardson
Mike Richardson on July 20, 2010 at 4:14 pm

We did too in mid-May 2010. Cool mural on the rear wall. Heartbraking level of disrepair. Pictures on Cinematour.

LouisRugani
LouisRugani on August 24, 2010 at 8:42 am

Gus Sun mural looms large â€" just like the vaudeville legend

Sun’s secretary recalls him as a shrewd businessman

(Photo caption:) Ginny Snyder laughs as she stands in front of the giant Gus Sun mural being painted on the back of the Regent Theatre. She was Sun’s secretary in the 1940s.

By Andrew McGinn, Staff Writer

Thursday, May 14, 2009 SPRINGFIELD â€"

If there needs to be further justification for the painting of a 6,000-square-foot mural on the back of a downtown building of some guy juggling, try this â€" in 1947, it was reported that Warner Bros. was thinking about making a movie based on the life of that guy.

Gustave Ferdinand Klotz.

Better known as Gus Sun.

Sun later said that he wanted Bob Hope to play him in the movie, which would’ve been appropriate â€" as the ruler of a vast vaudeville empire centered in Springfield, Sun gave Hope his first break.

Only the movie never happened, presumably because it would’ve been a casting nightmare.

Sun also helped the Marx Brothers, the Ritz Brothers, W.C. Fields, Al Jolson, Will Rogers, George Burns, Bert Lahr (the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz”) and Edgar Bergen (and his puppet, Charlie McCarthy) on their way to fame.

But the biggest, most logical, question remains â€" who would’ve played his secretary?

After all, it only seems fair to include the woman who took his dictation, got him tickets every year to the Kentucky Derby, hired bandleader Glen Gray to play his 50th wedding anniversary and addressed all 500 of his Christmas cards.

“I’d love to see that address list now,” said Ginny Snyder, who worked as Sun’s secretary for close to a decade. “If I looked at the list, it’d all come back to me.”

At age 84, Snyder is one of the last links (quite possibly the last) to the Gus Sun Booking Agency, the now-defunct theatrical institution that chose Springfield as its home in 1906.

“I don’t feel like it,” she said.

Increasingly, the mural-in-progress on the back of the vacant Regent Theatre â€" home to Sun’s agency from 1920 onward â€" is just another piece of public art dedicated to someone nobody actually knew.

“He loved to talk about the old days,” recalled Snyder, who went to work for Sun in 1942. “I’d give the world to have the stuff he dictated to me.”

At the time, it was the twilight of Sun’s dynasty.

“When I went up there, the vaudeville days were over,” Snyder said. “It was the end of an era.”

Once believed to have been the nation’s largest individual user of telegraph and telephone services, the agency was down to three offices (in Springfield, Detroit and Des Moines, Iowa) from a high of 10.

During the heyday of vaudeville, the Sun booking agency had provided a circuit of 275 theaters with entertainers â€" many of whom became world famous.

According to legend, Sun once visited a Hollywood set and realized that 12 of the 17 people there once worked for him.

But by the early 1940s, the agency had switched to booking acts into county and state fairs.

“We had high-wire acts,” Snyder said. “We had the Sensational Kays.”

They were a husband and wife high-wire act.

“She wore pantaloons,” Snyder said, “so nobody could tell she was pregnant.”

There were flying acts, dog acts, juggling acts and more.

“One of the most elaborate acts was Will Hill’s Elephants,” Snyder said.

The name probably speaks for itself.

“Then there were the Zacchinis,” she said. “They were the people who got shot out of a cannon.”

The agency might’ve just been a shell of its former self, but Sun was still at the helm, although most of the daily work had been overseen since 1930 by general manager Bob Shaw, a former vaudevillian himself.

“When I went up there, at 19, (Sun) was getting ready to celebrate his 75th birthday,” Snyder said. “He was wonderful to me. All of them were wonderful to me.

“In those days, people didn’t think that show people were all that great. I liked them because they were themselves. Show people are just different. They accept you for your face value.”

And as a hunter and avid cook, Sun could whip up some mean hasenpfeffer (pickled rabbit).

When someone floated the idea of writing a book about Sun’s life â€" like the movie, it never happened â€" he called on his secretary to dictate the details of his life.

“He never dictated a little,” Snyder said. “He’d get started … ”

A Toledo native, he told of opening Springfield’s first movie theater in 1904, and how, in order to convey to people that it was a family-friendly endeavor, he parked a baby buggy outside.

“He was shrewd,” said Snyder, who still uses shorthand to this day. “He wasn’t educated, but he was shrewd.”

He talked often of Bob Hope â€" one of his vaudeville success stories.

“He loved to talk about Bob Hope,” Snyder said. “I used to write to Bob Hope at least once a year. He liked to have that feeling, that he gave him his start.”

Hope wasn’t the only one â€" Snyder remembers plenty of autographed photos on Sun’s office wall, from the likes of singer Sophie Tucker, bandleader Ted Lewis and Fanny Brice, the comedian whose life later inspired the musical “Funny Girl.”

For Snyder, who eventually left the agency in 1951 to start a family (Sun died in 1959 at age 90), it was as close to a dream job as she would get.

“I was always just fascinated with carnivals,” she said. “I said I always wanted to work for the circus, and I would have in a minute.”

True to the mural, by Yellow Springs artist Jason Morgan, Sun might have become a millionaire impresario, but once a circus juggler always a circus juggler â€" even behind closed office doors.

“Every once in a while,” Snyder said, “you’d hear those balls go thump, thump.”

(Tuesday, August 24, 2009, Springfield News-Sun, Springfield, Ohio

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 3, 2012 at 9:49 pm

The 1922 book A standard history of Springfield and Clark County, Ohio has this to say about Gus Sun’s Regent Theatre:

“In the realm of Springfield theaters, Gus Sun is easily the dean; he has leased theaters and operated them until he owned them. In 1912 he leased the Grand and in 1917 he purchased it, and in 1919 he dismantled it, constructing the Regent on the site….”
The book also has a bit about the Grand Theatre, the Regent’s predecessor:
“In 1881 the Grand Opera House was built on Limestone Street, on the site of the old Leffel Water Wheel industry. It was built by John W. Bookwalter, with a seating capacity of 1,200, and the advantage of a ground floor and other up-to-date improvements….”
Quite a few sources note that the architect of the Regent Theatre was C. Howard Crane, and that the house opened on August 16, 1920. Some sources also claim that it was built as a legitimate theater that was later converted to show movies, but in fact Gus Sun built the Regent for vaudeville and movies.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 4, 2012 at 6:09 am

Heh. It turns out that one of the sources that attributes the design of the Regent Theatre to C. Howard Crane is a blog at some site called Cinema Treasures. As it appears to be a fairly reliable site, we should probably add that information to this page.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on July 18, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Renovations described in this 1961 trade article: Boxoffice

realreels
realreels on August 5, 2014 at 1:15 am

I recently purchased a circa 1925 postcard sent from Hollywood that was addressed to “Mr. Ed Paul, Regent Theatre, Springfield, Ohio”. Would Mr. Paul have been a vaudeville actor appearing at the theatre, or would he have been an employee of the theatre?

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