In a few weeks, the Regent Theatre in Brisbane will close its doors for the last time.
This is a very sad event for me. The Regent is one of the most beautiful theatres in Australia. It opened back in 1929 and whilst it has gone through a few refurbishments over the years, it has a classic, traditional look.
I recently stumbled across this old picture of the Queen Street Mall taken in the mid 1960s - http://twitpic.com/15f7yb. Most of those buildings have been knocked down (and there’s certainly no tram line today) but the Regent can be seen in all its glory. I can’t imagine how many people have visited that cinema over the past 80 years.
Many have tried to stop the closure of the Regent but the State Government hasn’t come to the party. Brett Debritz ran a website - http://www.debritz.com/str/ - trying to do whatever he could to bring this to people’s attention.
From a personal perspective, I understand that change is inevitable. Not all things are meant to last. Maybe the Regent falls into this category. It’s still sad though. Birch, Carroll & Coyle and Hoyts have done such a poor job running the cinema in recent years. Very few people go there (except for special preview screenings). If more patrons were coming through the door, I’m sure there’d be a much bigger public outcry over the site’s redevelopment.
I’m in London for a few weeks and so will miss the week long gala of classic movies which will be showing at the Regent from May 29 to June 5. You can book tickets through the Event Cinemas website. If I was here, I’d be going along every night – trying to make the most of the Regent’s final days. I look of the foyer and marble staircase amazes me every time I walk in.
The good news is that the cinema will remain open until June 13 and so I can sneak one last movie (as I return from London on June 9). The Rocky Horror Picture Show is on every night during the final week and I’ve booked tickets to the very last session on June 13 at 6:45pm.
For this week’s blog, I thought I’d reflect back on my 10 favourite Regent memories. I’m not as old as many other Brisbane moviegoers but I’ve had plenty of great experiences there. Enjoy!
First Regent Movie – The Basketball Diaries – August 1995
My love of film started after I got a job in a video store in January 1995. I’d heard about the Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF) but had never been before. A fan of Leonardo DiCaprio (having seen What’s Eating Gilbert Grape), I made the effort to see The Basketball Diaries at BIFF. I’d never driven into the city so had to ask for directions from my work colleagues.
I loved the movie (check it out if you haven’t seen it) and I’ve attended BIFF every year since 1995 as a result.
Longest Movie Ever Seen – Hamlet – May 1997
Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet is the longest movie I’ve ever seen. It clocks in at just over 4 hours and was shot in 70mm format (a wider screen than we’re used to). I think it was the last major film to be shot in 70mm and so the Regent’s Showcase Cinema was the only theatre with a wide enough screen to accommodate it.
It came out on Thursday and I skipped my uni lecture to go to the 10am screening. There was a 15 minute interval at the half-way mark and I remember sneaking downstairs to the McDonalds (which has since closed) to pick up a couple of cheeseburgers. Certainly got me through the second half and the film featured in my top 10 list for that year.
Friends At BIFF – Election & Go – July 1999
I’d been attending BIFF for a number of years but the time had come to get some friends into the act. I wanted to expand their theatrical horizons.
On 30 July 1999, I organised for a group of 6 friends to see back-to-back screenings of Election (with Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick) and Go. It was a fantastic night and we snuck in a drink afterwards at the Regent Bar (such a beautiful place).
I can tell you for a fact that of all the times that I’ve been to the movies, this was my favourite experience. I loved both films (they were ranked 3rd and 7th on my top 10 list for that year) and it was fantastic to have some friends along to enjoy them too. I think I’ve seen Election about 100 times since.
I got an even bigger group of friends to BIFF the following year to see American Psycho. Not top 10 worthy but another good film. The novel is one of my all time favourites.
Whoops, Wrong Reel – The Green Mile – February 2000
When I ask people about their favourite films, The Shawshank Redemption pops up regularly. I saw it at the Schonell Theatre on the day before a uni exam. Director Frank Darabont’s follow up was The Green Mile and having read the book, I was very keen to see it.
To see it before everyone else, I booked tickets to a charity preview with a few friends. I’ve never seen this happen before but… two of the film reels were played out of order! The story was going along fine and then wham, it jumped ahead 20 minutes. One minute, John Coffey was in prison. The next minute, he had escaped and was helping cure a sick woman. After that reel was complete (20 minutes later), it then jumped back to the bit we missed.
There were some murmurs from the audience and I realised pretty quickly what was going on. How strange. One of my friends was none the wiser though. He thought it was just a creatively done flashback sequence. I had to laugh.
A New Record – Interstellar 5555 – August 2004
In 2004, I went on my first overseas trip. It was a contiki tour across Europe and yep, I had plenty of fun. When I got back 5 weeks later, I had a LOT of movies to catch up on. I cleared my schedule on a Saturday and decided to get busy.
Up until this point, the most number of movies that I’d seen in a day was 3. I love movies but there’s only so many you can see in a day. It’s hard to concentrate and remain in a seated position for so long.
On 7 August 2004, I saw a record setting 6 movies. I’m pretty confident that I’ll never beat this. I saw Facing Windows, Under The Radar, King Arthur, The Chronicles Of Riddick and White Chicks.
It all finished with an 11:30pm BIFF screening with two friends of a Japanese animated film called Interstellar 5555. I think I was running off fumes by this point – driving from my home in Stafford Hts to the CBD just to chalk up movie number 6. I can’t remember much from the film but thankfully it was only 68 minutes. When I put my head on the pillow that night, I’d well and truly earned my rest.
The Hidden Theatrette – Just Friends – December 2005
When I started reviewing for 612ABC in late 2005, I suddenly found myself receiving invites from distributors to see films before they open. Now this was pretty cool. Paramount even had their own private theatrette at Milton.
It turns out that the Regent has its own theatrette too. It’s located on level 1 and you can access it through the lifts next to Aromas. It seats about 25 people and if you’re trying to picture where it is, it’d be directly above the front entrance to the cinema. A few distributors rent this theatre for their private media screenings.
I first saw a film there in December 2005. It was Just Friends (nothing too good) but I took a few hours off work just to see what this theatrette looked like. It was also fun to mingle amongst other critics. I’ve been back numerous times but unfortunately, it too will be gone as part of the redevelopment. For the record, my last theatrette film was Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief.
Fire In The Regent – The Da Vinci Code – May 2006
There was huge hype for The Da Vinci Code but the media preview didn’t occur until the night before the film’s release. Sony didn’t want to take any chances with negative reviews hurting business. I’d read the novel and was curious to see how they would adapt it for the big screen.
About three-quarters into the movie, the film reel caught on fire. We saw the picture dissolve in front of our very eyes. The lights were turned on and the packed audience had to amuse themselves for 15 minutes so that the problem could be fixed.
It was a fun experience because it’s not often you can pause mid movie and talk about it. I was debating it with my friend Sam and a few other nearby critics. An unplanned interval.
My 30th Birthday – The Nanny Diaries – September 2007
My 30th birthday fell on a Wednesday in September 2007. I was catching up with friends that weekend and given I’m not too big on celebrations, I just treated my actual 30th birthday as any other day. I went to the media preview for The Nanny Diaries which just happened to be at the Regent.
The film was horrendous. I wouldn’t subject anyone to sitting through such a painful film on any day of the year, yet alone a birthday. Still, if anyone ever asks where I was for my 30th birthday, I can say that I spent it in a beautiful cinema.
One Final BIFF – An Education – July 2009
When last year’s BIFF came around, I knew it was the end of an era. It had been announced that the festival was moving to November from 2010 onwards. I also knew that the lease from Birch, Carroll & Coyle was due to end in mid 2010 and that the famous Regent would be closed.
I therefore tried to make the most of BIFF 2009. I attended the Opening Night celebrations for the first time in many years. It was for An Education – an amazing film which earned a spot on my top 10 list last year. Carey Mulligan’s performance was the best by an actress that I’ve seen in the past 12 months.
Carey was at the premiere and I had a quick chance to meet her and have my photo taken. The film’s after party was great too. The lobby and the staircase were packed with happy patrons enjoying a few drinks.
I saw plenty of films during the festival and finished it off by hosting a Q&A with Anthony LaPaglia and the cast/crew of Balibo at the Palace Barracks. I’m not sure where this year’s BIFF will be but it just won’t be the same without the Regent. I’ll also miss the long queues which often stretched down the Queen Street Mall (with everyone rugged up in jumpers, jackets and scarves).
The Final Film – The Rocky Horror Picture Show – June 2010
Ok, so this memory is yet to occur but it’s going to be a significant night. I’ll try to take along my camera to get some photos.
As you can see above, I’ve had many memorable experiences at the Regent and hopefully there’s one more left which will be forever etched in my memory. See you there!