First step to save Regent Theater taken

posted by philbertgray on December 12, 2007 at 3:45 pm

SPRINGFIELD, OH — C. Howard Crane, also the architect of the Detroit Orchestra Hall, designed the Regent Theatre which opened on August 16, 1920. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Regent is described as a light neo-classical or Adam style, which is evident by the decorative details on the facade, and the proscenium, balcony and mezzanine decorations of the interior.

The Regent was built as a legitimate theater, but was later adapted to show moving pictures. Springfield’s famed booking agent, Gus Sun, utilized the Regent for his various productions and vaudeville acts. Sun’s booking agency, which was located on the second floor of the theater, was nationally known, and he is credited with giving many young acts, including the likes of Bob Hope, their start in the business.

Now, after 15 years of sitting vacant, there’s action once again at the the old movie theater, one of only two left standing in downtown Springfield. The theater is getting a new roof. “It’s nothing exciting,” confessed Mike Morris, director of special projects for the Turner Foundation. “It’s just a completely functional, utilitarian roof.” This first step is being made to save the historic building. “It had to start with literally saving the building,” Morris said.

The years after its closing haven’t been kind to the Regent. The building has considerable water damage which led to mold and a ceiling collapse where Sun’s office was located. The outside of the theater isn’t in that bad of shape but the 1,450-seat Regent actually needs work on most everything, from electrical and plumbing to all things cosmetic.

A 1999 study put the cost to renovate the Regent at more than $2 million, and that’s not including the historical restoration and the addition of an elevator. There has been no discussion as to whether the balcony, which was turned into a second auditorium at one point, might be part of any restoration.

For Regent Entertainment, a group that includes the Turner Foundation, Springfield Arts Council, Clark State Community College and Wittenberg University, saving the theater is a matter of local pride. “It’s both historic and nostalgic,” Morris said. And while the group hasn’t had any talks on a possible use for the theater, it all starts with the roof.

An article regarding the Regent Theater can be found at the Springfield Sun News along with a picture of the exterior.

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