- Regent Theatre, Dunedin
The Regent Theatre takes pride of place in the lower half of Dunedin’s central Octagon reserve. It stands on the site of Dunedin’s most disastrous fire to date, which in 1879 claimed 12 lives. The remnants of this building make up part of the Regent Chambers, to which the entrance stands to the left of the Regent Theatre foyer. The Theatre itself was built over an astonishingly swift period of six months, with workers operating twelve hours a day until completion. Modeled on the Regent Theatre in New York, and with other ‘sister’ Regents around the country, Dunedin’s Regent Theatre opened for business in 1928.
For the first forty four years of its life, the Regent operated as a cinema. When His Majesty’s Theatre, the only large, live theatre in Dunedin, was condemned in 1972, the Otago Theatre Trust was established. In 1973 the Otago Theatre Trust was able to purchase the Regent, and with the help of the Dunedin community, saved the site from a potentially dismal fate. In 1979, the Dunedin City Council acquired the ownership of the theatre buildings, and the Otago Theatre Trust continued to facilitate the administration of the Theatre. The year 1980 saw a dramatic change of face for the old cinema complex. A stage, dressing rooms and a full size fly tower where constructed in preparation for the Regent’s rebirth as Otago’s premier live performance venue.
Over the last thirty years, the Otago Theatre Trust has ensured a full programme of films, ballet, musicals and other various productions at the Regent Theatre. The maintenance of the theatre has remained true to its historical roots, and boasts the only large live theatre venue with a proscenium arch in the Otago area. In 1987 the Regent Theatre was registered as a Category 1 Historic Building. The Theatre seats 1830 people, and currently provides entertainment to approximately 50,000 patrons per year. The Regent Theatre celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2003, and the Otago Theatre Trust maintains its goal of developing, maintaining and promoting the Regent Theatre as the region’s premier large scale auditorium for the performing arts and cinema for the people of Otago and visitors to Dunedin.Source: http://www.regenttheatre.co.nz/aboutus.asp (2007)