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Regent Theatre

Melbourne's Regent Theatre at 191 Collins Street was the finest of all the Regents - an Australia-wide chain of palatial cinemas built in the 1920s for Hoyts Theatres Ltd, then under the management of Francis W. Thring and George Tallis. Designed by Cedric H. Ballantyne, the two-level 3287-seat Regent opened on 15 March 1929 with a silent film, Two Lovers. Sound films were introduced soon after. Beneath the Regent's stalls was a second cinema, the Plaza, seating 1235 on a single level. Regent film presentations were complemented by a concert orchestra, ballet, live acts and a Wurlitzer organ.

As Hoyts' principal Melbourne outlet, the Regent screened many notable films, including Gone with the wind. Following a disastrous fire in 1945, the theatre was reconstructed, reopening on 19 December 1947. In the 1960s changes in film-going habits eroded cinema audiences. The Regent and the Plaza - which had been the Melbourne home of wide-screen 'Cinerama' films - closed in 1970. The building was purchased by the Melbourne City Council for the City Square development, but persistent trade union and community efforts averted demolition until, in 1993, the developer David Marriner contrived a scheme that saw the theatre restored to its former glory. It reopened with a gala concert on 17 August 1996 and has since housed lavish musicals including Sunset boulevard and Show boat.

Frank Van Straten

Straten, Frank Van, The Regent Theatre: Melbourne's palace of dreams, ELM Publishing, Melbourne, 1996. Details

See also

Regent Place