The Regent Theatre: a Melbourne icon to re-open in January 2020

AAR Melbourne's Regent Theatre at night - photo by Dianna SnapeOne of Melbourne’s most iconic landmarks, the Regent Theatre, will re-open its doors to the public in January 2020, revealing a major refurbishment of the much-loved auditorium, foyers and amenities.

Working in collaboration with Heritage Victoria, and closely with a renowned team of architects, theatre designers, specialist builders, expert trades and craftspeople – and the knowledge and experience of the theatre operators Marriner Group – this $19.4 million refurbishment has been three years in the planning and eight months in construction.

The refurbishment has been undertaken as a partnership between the Victorian State Government, the City of Melbourne and Marriner Group. The Regent will reopen with the international theatrical event War Horse, followed by the inspiring Billy Elliot the Musical.

These productions follow in the footsteps of some the world’s most prestigious theatrical events to be hosted at the Regent, including Sunset Boulevard, Wicked, Love Never Dies, Singin’ In The Rain and The Lion King to name a few. In 2021 the Regent will host the Australian premiere of the critically acclaimed Australian production Moulin Rouge! The Musical.

The refurbishment undertaken throughout 2019 will ensure the theatre continues to be one of Melbourne’s cultural icons and a world-class live performance venue for generations to come.

“The Regent is such a beautiful theatre, but now it really is optimised for live performance,” said Jason Marriner, CEO Marriner Group. “The changes are subtle but substantial, and I think audiences will be delighted with the improvement. It is a thrill to have been able to work with the owners, the State Government and the City of Melbourne to refurbish the theatre for the audiences of the future to enjoy.”

Some of the works undertaken include: construction of a 4-metre extension to the Dress Circle balcony, bringing the audience and performers closer together; installation of brand-new comfortable seating, retaining the luxuriousness and cinema-style charm of the old chairs, and 170 new leather lounge chairs in the Dress Circle. The refurbishment will also ensure improved views of the stage from every seat in the theatre.

The bars and foyers have been upgraded and additional ladies bathrooms, ensuring the best amenity of any theatre; and painstakingly and extensive repair and restoration of the ornate plasterwork and the grand and glittering crystal chandelier in the auditorium has undergone a full restoration.

The Regent opened on 15 March 1929 as a picture palace: a venue for many forms of entertainment including the Wurlitzer organ, ballet, a news reel and feature film. The feature on opening night was a silent film, The Two Lovers. The first talkie film was on 6 April 1929, an aerial action film called The Air Circus.

The auditorium burned down in 1945, right at the end of World War 2. Despite the scarcity of building supplies, the City of Melbourne deemed the reconstruction as a priority due to the importance of the Regent to the city. Reopening in 1947, the opening night programme included a Technicolor film of the Royal Wedding between Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

The theatre closed in 1970. The theatre’s future was heavily disputed and laid dormant for 26 years. Following a majestic restoration from a near-derelict state by Marriner Group, the Regent reopened in 1996 with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard. Since reopening, it has been home to blockbuster musicals like Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Lion King, Wicked, and Love Never Dies.

For more information about the Regent Theatre, visit: www.marrinergroup.com.au for details.

Image: The Regent Theatre at night – photo by Dianna Snape

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