Directory of cinemas in Brighton & Hove

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Regent Cinema

The Regent shortly after its opening

The Regent's sumptuous foyer and proscenium in 1921. The Regent was the first of PCT's super cinemas, costing more than £400,000. It was designed by Robert Atkinson with interiors by Walpole Champneys, including murals by Walter Bayes, principal of the Royal College of Art. The proscenium was designed by Lawrence Preston of Brighton College of Art.

On Thursday 28 March 1957 the Regent was the scene of a charity premiere-style screening. Although the advertised film was Tyrone Power in Seven Waves Away, the event was for Doctor at Large, starring Dirk Bogarde, which had opened two days earlier in London. The picture gives a clear view of the first-floor restaurant above the foyer.

The restaurant, with waitress service and a dinner-suited manager, was clearly several steps up from popcorn and hot dogs. The clientele in this undated (1950s?) photograph may reflect the demographic profile of the dance hall patrons as much as the cinema.

The Regent was demolished shortly after this photograph of the Clock Tower and Queen's Road was taken on 28 January 1974. Boots store now occupies the site of what was then Virgin Records shop as well as the Regent cinema.

Photos: 1921, 1957 and 1974 courtesy of Brighton & Hove Libraries' Brighton History Centre

133 Queen's Road/133 North Street, Brighton
operated 1921-1973

1921 July 27 Regent Cinema is opened by Provincial Cinematograph Theatres Ltd (PCT) on the site of the historic Unicorn Inn (built 1597, demolished 1920) and other buildings. It has a restaurant with orchestra, Ship Café and an upstairs dance hall, opened in 1923, the latter reputed to have one of the best sprung floors in the country. The cinema screens its own local newsreel made by Eddie Scriven.
1922 June PCT hires American expatriot independent exhibitor Walter Wanger to manage the cinema and to advise the company on promotional activities and use his American connections to acquire better quality films. Wanger is sacked after pointing out a potential conflict of interest between the latter aim and the vested interests of distributors on the board of PCT. Wanger's action for breach of contract is settled out of court, PCT paying him £8,000.
      Wanger (1894-1968) later produced many films in Hollywood, including Stagecoach, Joan of Arc (Special Academy Award 1948) and culminating in Cleopatra (1963). He was twice president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).
1929 January 25 Seriously damaged by fire, which destroys the cinema organ, proscenium and stage. During the subsequent closure, films are shown on Sundays at the Hippodrome, Middle Street.
1929 February Acquired by Gaumont-British Picture Corporation as part of the PCT circuit.
1929 July 1 Re-opens with British Acoustic Films (BAF) sound system—claimed to be the first sound-equipped cinema in Brighton.
1929 A Mighty Wurlitzer theatre organ is installed. The resident organist is Terance Casey (see note below).
late 1940s An exhibition of art from Brighton schools, selected by Ronald Horton, was held here.
1948 2,024 seats, prices 1s 9d-4s 6d, continuous performances. The general manager is Reginald Henry Ainsworth.
1953 Acquired by Odeon Cinemas Ltd. Prices 2s 3d-5s.
1955 April 13-19 May Closed during modifications to circle to allow for CinemaScope presentations.
1957 Prices 2s 6d-5s 3d.
1961 Prices 3s-6s; 1,844 seats.
1962 April 25-7 June Closed during widening of proscenium and installation of large wide screen for 70mm presentations.
1967 July Ballroom becomes a bingo hall.
1973 April 14 Closed when Odeon Kingswest opened. Building demolished 1974.

• The Regent was one of the first (if not the first) of the new breed of 'super-cinema' picture palaces built after the First World War, given a name to reflect its association with the town. In fact, the name became common for classy cinemas elsewhere—there were at least 27 so-named cinemas in the UK and over 60 more in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.
The Picturegoer Monthly magazine for May 1922 included a feature about 'Mr and Mrs Picturegoer at the Regent, Brighton'.
• The 35 recordings made of Terance Casey playing the organ on 78rpm discs were re-mastered onto CD by Beulah Records but are not currently available. His recording of Nauticana includes the sound impression of vomiting. The organ is now in the Magnificent Music Machines museum at St Keyne Station, near Liskeard in Cornwall.
• The souvenir programme for the opening of the Regent can be seen online in the Bill Douglas Centre collection

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Page updated 8 March 2018
© David Fisher