Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

The Sydney Regent Theater

Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

The Sydney Regent Theater

Article excerpt

The Australian Theatre Historical Society Inc. is the only group in Australasia which seeks to document and record the history and architecture of cinema and theatre buildings in Australia. It was formed in 1982 with twenty members and has grown to just over two hundred. Out publications are a quarterly newsletter and a quarterly journal, KINO.

Recently the Society, in Association with other interested bodies, attempted to save the Sydney Regent Theatre in George Street. The Regent, seating 2,216, opened on 7th March, 1928. It was part of the Hoyts Theatres Ltd's chain of Regent theatres which included Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane. For many years the Regent was one of Sydney's premier cinemas. It had been built with a fly tower, orchestra pit and organ pit. Its features included a huge semi-circular proscenium arch, a grand entrance lobby (with marble stairs and chandeliers) and a Dress Circle foyer with its barrel vault ceiling.

When Hoyts closed the theatre in January, 1976, it went over to live performances. These lasted until May, 1984. While plans for redevelopment had been muted in the mid-1970's, union pressure had dispersed them. Around 1983 a Permanent Conservation Order was placed on the theatre by the NSW Labor Government. On appeal by the owners, the Minister responsible revoked the order on the auditorium, but not the facade and foyers.

Several years of agitating by various groups (including ATHS) led to a Commission of Enquiry which ran for eight months and was held in 1986. The Enquiry turned out to be the longest ever held in NSW, and resulted in the finding that the government was urged to protect the theatre with a Permanent Conservation Order. At that time the facade was covered by a permanent order, with a temporary order on the auditorium. The Regent was classified by The National Trust, appeared on the Sydney City Council's list of buildings whose preservation was to be urged, and was also listed on the register of the National Estate by the Commonwealth Government - the three highest listings in NSW. The State Government took no action to follow the recommendations of the Enquiry.

A new Liberal Government came to power in NSW in early 1988. Some three weeks after the election, the new Minister for Planning and Environment revoked the orders on the Regent without warning or discussion. …

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