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Regent Theatre

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Melbourne is spoilt for magnificent theatres, both contemporary and traditional. The Regent Theatre is one that is steeped in history, is architecturally stunning and one that stages cutting edge contemporary musicals and theatre. The 2,162 seat Regent Theatre is at 191 Collins Street, a short walk from The Victoria Hotel Melbourne.

The Regent Theatre was opened in 1929 and was one of Victoria’s largest cinemas during the inter-war period, complete with an amazing Wurlitzer Organ. The Regent is regarded as perhaps the best example of the combined Spanish Gothic and French Renaissance revival styles in Melbourne. Lavish and opulent, it was built as two entertainment venues. The Regent Theatre upstairs catered for 3,500 patrons while the Plaza Ballroom was designed for dining and dancing. However, it was soon converted to a cinema creating Australia’s first duplex. Disused since closing in 1969, it was meticulously renovated, refurbished and returned to its former glory to re-open in 1996.

As theatres go, The Regent is a ‘survivor’. It has survived a fire, a flood, twenty-six years in darkness and many threats of demolition by blinkered bureaucrats to turn the magnificent building into a car park or a tabaret. The 1945 fire gutted the cinema, destroying the auditorium and the organ. It was reconstructed, including a new organ, and re-opened in 1947, making it one of the last ‘picture palaces’ to be built in the country.

Ironically, the National Trust’s refusal to list the Regent because it was not ‘significant’ gave those in favour of demolition weight to their argument but it is now listed by the National Trust and on the Victorian Heritage Register. There have been some fabulous recent productions including The Lion King, King Kong, We Will Rock You, Sunset Boulevard, Wicked, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Love Never Dies, Grease and Cats. All productions have been given that extra special ‘something’ for patrons by being staged in such a sensational venue. Arguably it is the survival/revival of historic theatres like The Regent that has made Melbourne Australia’s undisputed performing arts capital.

While The Victoria Hotel Melbourne is perfectly located for accommodation as well as a pre-theatre dining experience, if you like seafood, Box on Collins is even closer – right next door at 189 Collins Street. This excellent restaurant was obviously a laneway (it is narrow and long) and it is the only way to gain lift access to the theatre. Even if you don’t dine, patrons in wheelchairs or with mobility issues are still given a warm welcome by the restaurant staff and pointed in the right direction. If you do have special needs, on arrival you will be welcomed by the venue concierge, and directed to the accessible entrance. Accessible seating is allocated in the stalls where up to eight wheelchair users can be accommodated. An accessible unisex toilet is available in the stalls foyer.

The Regent Theatre is part of the Marriner Group (Regent Theatre, Forum Theatre, Princess Theatre, Comedy Theatre). Here is a link to the official website for more information and what’s currently on.

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