The Regent Theatre

Melbourne, Australia | C.1930

Photo Credit: Alex Huynh

In the time this lavishly decorated theatre was closed, society progressed from vinyl to cassette tape. After sitting over 26 years in the dark on Collins Street, the restored Regent Theatre was ceremoniously reopened in 1993. The Heritage landmark had come a long way since this fateful rise from the ashes, including the fact that this wasn’t the first time “The Palace for the People” had shut its doors. 

Designed by Cedric Ballantyne to be the crown jewel of the Regent cinema group, the Rococo-style interior was inspired by Ballantyne’s tour of equally exquisite theaters in the United States. Specifically modeled after the Capitol Theatre in New York City, the Regent was purposely constructed to wow audiences from the moment the passed the ticket booth. Opening in 1929, the Regent housed 3,500 seats, a Wurlitzer organ, and space for a resident orchestra, making it the one of the largest and luxurious theatre spaces in “The Land Down Under.” Due to management’s difficulties securing a liquor license for the basement ballroom space, its lower level was also turned into a second screen – accidentally creating the first cinema duplex in Australia. 

In 1945, a terrible fire enveloped the auditorium of the Regent Theatre, with only the main entrance surviving intact. Almost as quickly as it was destroyed, the Regent opened back up to picture-viewing audiences in 1947, closely replicated to its original design. Over the ensuing decades, the movie palace had to battle to continue catering to changing tastes of modern audiences. Even with making its screen adaptable to Cinerama technology, the Regent Theatre couldn’t compete with the incoming blaze of publicity surrounding multi-screen cineplexes. On July 1, 1970, the old cinema closed its doors.  

Surviving many plots to demolish its distinguished interior by developers, the Regent was purchased  by developer David Marriner in 1990 with the intent of renewing the building’s life as a center of entertainment. Since 1993, audiences have clamored into the historic theater for Broadway musicals, concerts, and the occasional film. Most importantly, Melbourne’s palace is open for the people once again, which causes one to burn with excitement. 

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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