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The Regt Theater is a historic former art gallery built in 1929, closed in 1970, and restored and reopened in 1996 as a theater on Collins Street, in the city of Melbourne, Australia. It is one of the city’s six theater districts collectively known as the Melbourne East Theater District. Designed by Charles Ballantyne in a unique design, it has a Gothic-style lobby, a Louis XVI-style auditorium and a Spanish Baroque ballroom on the ground floor, it is listed by the National Trust of Australia and is on the Victorian Heritage Register.
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The Regt Theater on Collins Street was purchased by Hoits Theaters director Francis W. Thring to be the head of his regional theater Regt. It was created by Cedric Ballantine, who had produced the first Thring movies, and toured US capitals, drawing inspiration from eclectic sources such as Spanish Gothic and French Race styles to create “one of the biggest and most famous movies in Victoria during the war.”.
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The opening of the Regt Theater on 15 March 1929 was a major event, attended by Lord Mayor Cr Luxton, who declared that “this theater is an architectural landmark for the city that we can all be proud of (great applause)”.
The theater had 3,250 seats, had a Wurlitzer organ, as well as an orchestra and a live orchestra (to accompany dirty films), and the evening program included a series of live performances, including The Two Lovers, and Roland. Coleman and Wilma Banki were the main show.
Separately, there was a second theater below the main one, called The Plaza; originally this was supposed to be a cabaret, but licensing issues led to a change of use. It was designed for sound, and was opened on May 10, 1929, by Alias Jimmy Walton.
The cinema was hit by a terrible fire on 29 April 1945 which destroyed the hall, organ, flying tower and roof, but spared the foyer and the Plaza mostly. With post-war building restrictions lifted, the Regt was rebuilt as it was, under the direction of architects Cooper Murphy & Appleford,
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Making it one of the last statues to be built in this style. Also on December 19, 1947, several changes were made, such as the prosciutto being made square instead of arched, and the central brass chandelier became an imported Czechoslovak crystal design.
Regt scre was expanded to play Cinemascope in 1953, starting with the epic The Robe, and in 1958, the Plaza was extensively remodeled to fit Cinerama screens, and the 1962 epic How the West Was Won ran for two years.
By the 1960s it was clear that large cinemas had had their day, and Hoyts considered splitting the Regt into two cinemas, but opened the multi-level Hoyts Cinema Center on Bourke Street in 1969.
On July 1, 1970, Hoyts closed the doors of the Regt for the last time. The South Yarra Regt was closed the same night and the Ballarat Regt was closed the same year. The facility was closed in November of that year, and in December 1970, an auction was held in the theater where everything that was not closed was sold, raising thousands of dollars.
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In response to the closure and a cloud over the building’s future, a Save the Realm committee was quickly formed by former theater workers, theater enthusiasts and others, including Loris Webster, who ran a nearby cafe) to fight for its preservation.
The Regt was next to the site chosen by the Melbourne City Council in 1966 for the much-heralded City Square project, and the Council quickly moved to purchase the closed theater to allow for extensive development, initially including a luxury hotel. . The Council’s decision to buy the Regt is one of the reasons that, ironically, kept the theater alive, as they were exposed to public pressure where a private owner would not be.
In 1974, the National Trust refused to list the stadium, saying it was not important enough. In the same year, Lord Mayor Alan Douglas Whalley called for the Regt to be demolished, presenting a report led by Sir Roy Grounds to avoid preservationists and arguing that the Regt was not worthy of preservation by saying it “isn’t the Coliseum”.
The council argued that Regt’s long blank walls would hamper the developers’ ability to create grand visions for the site.
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Save The Regt kept up the pressure and responded with a 2,000-signature petition to City Hall.
Later that year, the next Lord Mayor, Ron Walker, supported his predecessor, however the Secretary of the Federation of Construction Workers, Norm Gallagher, announced a major ban on the building to prevent demolition.
In 1975, Victorian Premier Rupert Hammer launched a public inquiry which heard evidence from all sides and concluded that the Regt should be preserved as a theater and concert venue linked to the Town Square, to the dismay of the Council.
He offered $2 million in interest-free loans to recoup and save himself, but nothing came of it.
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In 1979, the National Trust reclaimed its status and listed the theater (and later succeeded in nominating it to the Victorian Heritage Register in 1988, and elevated it to national status after restoration). In 1980, with the Regt still empty, the City Center was finally opened, including the Plaza Theatre, and the interior was gutted, with only the ceiling. Even in the 1980s, proposals were coming in, which often involved putting the building up for sale, without funding, including an art, ballet center, as well as a casino and poker machines.
Following the controversial demolition of the Regt in Sydney in 1988, by 1990 the value and fate of Australia’s remaining ‘houses of art’ had become an important question. Most of the major regional cinemas have been lost, as have major cinemas in Brisbane (only the Regt Theater remains), Adelaide and Perth, but most of the major picture houses remain in Sydney and Melbourne, although most of them are still there. poor condition. Much of the decorations of Sydney’s Capitol Theater were removed, the State Theater remained intact but little used, Melbourne’s Capitol Theater lost its stores and faced an uncertain future, and the Forum Theater became a mega-church.
In 1992, the City Council voted on a proposal to demolish the Regt and approve the redevelopment of the site as part of a commercial zone that includes multi-story retail buildings, but the council rejected the proposal.
Trepreur David Marriner, who previously restored the history of the Princess Theater (Melbourne), bringing a new type of theater to Melbourne, proposed a tough deal to the Melbourne City Council and the new government led by Geoff Knett which included the restoration of the musical theater in. exchange for a large hotel building on the City Square section, which itself is slated for redevelopment.
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The National Government would buy half of the theater and the money would go to the renovation, while Mariner’s purchase price and half of the square from the Council would also go to the renovation, which ended up costing 25 dollars.
The renovation, carried out by the commercial architect Hans Junck, lasted three years from September 1993 and included a complete renovation, maintenance, new services, the installation of large beautiful buildings, the recreation of decorative items and finishes including much of the furniture and decorated front. cabin road ticket (since removed again), and the creation of a new resort in the same style. Using images provided by Save The Regt theater committee member Ian Williams, the Plaza Theater has also been fully and beautifully restored to its original format. The work was overseen by the heirs of Lovell Ch.
The Regt Theater reopened with a gala event on August 17, 1996, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard premiered on October 26.
In April 2019, the Marriner Group in partnership with the building’s owners, the Victorian State Government and Melbourne City Council, began a major renovation of the Regt Theatre. In addition to cosmetic improvements, including replica carpets with heritage and paint work, the main construction element was the extension of the Dish Circle balcony, bringing it four meters closer to the stage to improve the relationship between the audience and the stage. .
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Other work was done to improve the design of the theater, including a new seating arrangement and a polished floor to improve sight lines to the stage. The project took eight months to complete and cost about 19 million dollars.
The Regt Theater reopened on January 11, 2020 with the National Theater production of War Horse, the first play at the theater in its 90-year history.
Theater is mainly used for big music. Over the years, the Regt has had many survivors including:
Note: this includes theaters in and around inner city Melbourne, not the Greater Melbourne metropolitan area.
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