Fire

After arguably one of the Regent's most influential periods where it was the venue for huge fundraising efforts for the war, the unthinkable occurred. On the 29th April, 1945, the Regent was ridden with fire. Night watchman at the time, William Cherry, noticed the fire in the dress circle. It took 73 firemen to curb the violent blaze, which when extinguished, left a mere 6 of 3,287 seats in working order. The damage bill was estimated at a massive 400,000 pounds. 
As they say, a picture tells a thousand words. 


                

                                     Regent Auditorium after the fire, 1945                                          Regent fire ruins seen from stage, 1945
                                C.J. Frazer Studios; Bramley Family collection                                  C.J. Frazer Studios, Regent Theatre archives
                                                                        (courtesy, The Regent Theatre, Melbourne's Palace of Dreams)

From the darkest of times, gives light to a re-birth. What the Regent desperately needed, was a fast and cost effective redevelopment. The architects given the opportunity to work on the Regent project were Cowper, Murphy and Appleford. Their brief included the use of recycled materials wherever possible, and the restoration was to be as similar to the original drawings from Cedric H Ballantyne as possible. 

Cowper, Murphy and Appleford had a vast experience with theatre projects, including the Broadway in Camberwell and the Tatler Theatrette in Collins St. The Regent Theatre: Melbourne's Palace of Dreams note that many of the builders present for the restoration were too old to be deployed for the Second World War so were able to "lend their valuable traditional skills to the re-building." This was imperative to the traditional remodelling of the Regent. 

The main difference noted in pictorial histories of the Regent is that of the proscenium. The proscenium is generally an arch that surrounds the stage. The original Regent had a rounded arch, however the restored stage contained a square, or straight top edge. This can be seen clearly from the before and after images below. 

                  
                               

Stage before and after
Images thanks to Theatre Organs Australia

On Friday 19th December, 1947, the Regent was re-opened at a gala night and was heralded for being 'back in business'. In the years following, the Regent played host to some of the most successful films of the era. 




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