191-197 Collins Street, Melbourne 3000.
- Built in 1929 (rebuilt 1947)
- Designed by Cedric Ballantyne.
- Listed on the Victorian Heritage Register (no. 604132)
The Regent Theatre has a rich history, having played a central role in Melbourne's cultural development. The Regent Theatre was opened in 1929 at the peak of the picture theatre boom which spread across Australia and also led to the construction of the Forum Theatre.
The Regent was designed by Cedric Ballantyne for Hoyt's Theatres and immediately impressed the people of Melbourne with its opulence and style. Ballantyne combined Spanish Gothic and French Renaissance styles to produce one of Victoria's largest and most lavish cinemas in the inter-war period. The auditorium, surmounted by a domed ceiling and flanked by colonnades, provides a handsome spectacle. The foyers and promenades are decorated in exaggerated styles, reflecting the ostentatious nature and romanticism of the cinema industry at that time. The theatre was a first for Victoria, combining two theatres into the one building; the Regent above and the Plaza below. The Plaza was not intended to be a cinema but rather a ballroom, however owing to the Regent's inability to obtain a liquor licence, was converted to a cinema.
In 1945 the Regent Theatre was destroyed by fire except for the foyer and the Plaza below, which suffered smoke and water damage. However the theatre was rebuilt in 1947. In the 1970's, Hoyt's closed the Regent owing to its reduced popularity as a cinema and the huge cost in operating the venue. It lay idle for 20 years as the City of Melbourne council proposed demolishing the building to make way for a city square. The Regent was central to the conservation debates of the 1970's and was eventually saved. However much debate continued about what the building should be used for (a casino was one suggestion) and it was not until 1996 that it was restored and re-opened as a theatre with the Plaza functioning as a ballroom, consistent with its original intent.