The Fitzroy–Collingwood Times:
Volume 5

The Regent:
A Forgotten Icon

Fitzroy and Collingwood were once the home to some of Melbourne’s grand theatres of stage and screen. Join SMA Projects explore the colourful history of one such icon as we prepare to bring its legacy into the present day.

The Regent Theatre at 84 Johnston Street in Fitzroy had its grand opening in March of 1931 with a screening of Ronald Colman and Vilma Bánky in Two Lovers. Despite its doors opening in the ruinous advent of the Great Depression, this 2,000-seat auditorium was often packed to its vaulted, ornate ceilings. With its palatial stature, The Regent was as much a place for affordable escapism as it was a cornerstone of the neighbourhood’s social and civic infrastructure.

“The rapidly changing landscape of how stories were made and where they got told.”

The final film credits to roll at The Regent were for Jimmy Stewart’s The Mountain Road, in September of 1960. The next year, the space was reborn as the HSV7 Teletheatre and for the next decade it would be home to studio audiences for live television, broadcast direct from Johnston Street to living rooms around Victoria. This new life as a cutting-edge TV studio helped The Regent keep pace with the rapidly changing landscape of how stories were made and where they got told.

Between 1975 and 1979, The Regent had one last and particularly spirited hoorah as the home of Melbourne’s first production of The Rocky Horror Show. Frank-N-Furter was played – by all accounts, electrically – by Max Phipps for two years straight. The scandalous stage show was a fry cry from the mugging silent films for which The Regent was designed. It’s four-year run was a signal of the neighbourhood’s role on the front lines of Melbourne’s countercultural and artistic revolutions.

In 1983, The Regent was demolished – one of many grand Melbourne cinemas that could not survive endless waves of upheaval upon the entertainment industry. However, in places layered with legacies as important as this one, a certain spirit will always remain.

Follow SMA Projects as we share more information about the future of the The Regent in the months ahead.

Archival imagery courtesy State Library Victoria, Greg Lynch, Cinema Treasures & Frank Albrecht