53 Broadway Avenue, Palmerston North
History of the Regent
Designed in 1929 by Charles Hollingshed of Melbourne, "the Picture Palace" of Palmerston North - the Regent Theatre - officially opened its doors to the general public on 4 July, 1930. A newspaper report at the time described the theatre as having "been built, decorated and furnished regardless of cost" and called it "The Wonder Theatre" and "The Theatre Beautiful" and goes on, "Creating an entirely new standard of Entertainment, the Luxurious Regent will become the Mecca of all Devotees of the Magic Talking Screen because of its Compelling Worth and Regal Magnificence."
It lived up to this claim for many years. But after the decline of movie going a sadly dilapidated and poorly utilised Regent closed its doors in 1991. Following an unprecedented public reaction to the threat of losing not only the Regent but the Opera House as well, which would leave the city without a major performing venue, the Palmerston North City Council agreed to purchase the Regent in October 1993. Then in accordance with the huge response to submissions, the council agreed to restore the Regent to its former grandeur and modernise it technically to ensure its place as New Zealand's leading provincial theatre with features that rival many of its counterparts in the major cities.
The Palmerston North City Council agreed to contribute $10 000 000 to the project, the New Zealand Lotteries Grants Board added another $1 000 000 and the local community undertook its biggest financial challenge ever - to raise $1,700,000 - the equivalent of more than $25 for every man, woman and child in the city. On Christmas Eve 1997 this sum was finally achieved, thus ensuring the restoration work which had already commenced in September,1996, would indeed be completed to the highest standard, providing the city with a facility not only of which it could be immensely proud and which would attract top class national and international performers and shows, but one which would also be able to cater superbly to the community's requirements.
In the marble pavement immediately outside the central double doors a large brass 'R' has been inset. The design was originally used as decoration on the ends of seat frames and it was decided to promote this emblem as the signature of the Regent.
A control console at the rear of the stalls containing computerised sound and lighting equipment has meant the loss of some seats, but enables technicians to have full oversight of the audiovisual features of performances. The front section of stalls is arranged in continental style (with no aisles) which gives more seats at the front of the theatre. This seating can be removed to make space for wheel chairs, to enable tables to be set up and used for conference sessions, or the blonde wooden floor to be used for dancing. There is now a total of 1393 seats in the theatre, compared with almost 1600 originally.
Much of the plaster work had to be remoulded as leaks from the roof had proved destructive. An excellent job was done and it is impossible to detect where fresh plaster has been applied. The walls have been recoated with a beer wash and designs cleaned and retouched where necessary. So the requirement to preserve this heritage space has been adhered to. It looks just as it did in 1930.
A new hydraulic fore-stage lift has been installed to enable the stage to be extended out into the auditorium, or for the orchestra pit to be positioned at various levels.
A bank of 68 counterweight lines has been installed to manage the fly scenery and drapery. Each counterweight can carry 500 kilograms.
The stage floor is made of Australian splinter-free Spotted Gum and a major improvement is the stage access from a loading bay in King Street which makes it easier for stage crews when packing in and out.
The Green Room
Why is this called the Green Room? It is not because of the colour of the carpet, doors or the furniture. In olden times the players performed on a platform or stage referred to as "The Green" and adjacent to this was a room for relaxing, going over lines and other things that players did. So at the Regent on Broadway this room adjacent to the stage area became known as the Green Room and the tradition has remained.
The medallions at the base of each "window" can actually be removed giving access to the back to allow for back- lighting if ever it is decided to do this. The 124 seats in the DRESS CIRCLE have been widened slightly and Row A has been fractionally raised to improve sight-lines.
The architect, Charles Hollingshead, characterised the interior as a modern adaptation of a "fifteenth century Florentine manor house.
The Regency Room is able to cater for private functions held in conjunction with performances in the theatre, as well as being available for hire for meetings, wedding receptions, seminars etc. It has its own individual sound and music system which can operate independently of the rest of the complex.