Building Name: Regent Theatre
Address: 47-55 Broadway Avenue
Construction date: 1930
Architect: JC Hollinshed
Architectural style: Art Deco exterior. Persian interior
District Plan Category: 1
Building number: 20
Heritage NZ Category: 1
Building number: 5104
The Regent Theatre was built by the Australasian cinema and theatre chain JC Williamson Limited. Williamson's began its New Zealand operation in 1926. The theatre, one of a number of Regents built throughout New Zealand and Australia at this time, was a dual purpose cinema and theatre. The Melbourne architect Charles HoIlinshed was hired to design the building which was completed in 1930. When the Regent was the largest such auditorium in the city and quite the most lavish ever built. The theatre has hosted many live shows in its history and thousands of movies. It retained its twin functions for much of its life, only falling into relative disuse in recent years. The theatre's future is still in some doubt but with the involvement of the Palmerston North City Council the building's future looks more secure.
The exterior and interior of the theatre could not be more divergent - the exterior being an example of Art Deco, a favourite style for theatres, and the interior being Persian painted plaster ornament. The external symmetry, vertical fins, shallow stylised relief, stepped skyline, and chevron ornament are typical of the Art Deco style. The main entrance, low with walls of coloured plaster to imitate travertine, leads into a large barrel vaulted double height space off which there are the entrances to the main performance space. The interior decoration of the theatre is taken directly from Owen Jones' Grammar of Ornament. The auditorium seats 1600 people in a two-tier circIe and stalls arrangement.
Charles Hollinshed graduated from Sydney University in 1922, one of the first three graduates in architecture in Australia. With AH Walkely, Hollinshed practised in Melbourne and the firm specialised in theatre and cinema design. One of their best known designs was Her Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne (1934). Hollinshed also design Hoyts Limited (with Richard Gailey) the celebrated Spanish Gothic Regent Theatre, Brisbane (1929), now demolished. Another Regent, Palmerston North, (1930), was designed for JC Williamson Limited.
Summary of Heritage Values
The building has enormous associational value with many famous actors and performances, as well as theatre staff and the architect for the theatre.
The building is one of the great theatres in New Zealand mainly for the remarkable interior, but also for good Art Deco style exterior; it is consequently a most important landmark building in Palmerston North.
The building is authentic on the interior and exterior, and is a rare surviving example of a 1930's theatre.
While largely unused, the theatre has potentially great economic, functional, educational, and social values.
Statement of Significance
The Regent Theatre is a now rare survivor of the heyday of the theatre/cinema. As the only such venue in Palmerston North to survive to this day the Regent is of great social importance to the city. Many thousands of movies and live shows have been seen within its walls in the last 60 years and its grand and lavish interior has enthralled generations of Palmerstonians. The exterior design, and to a much greater degree, interior design are remarkably authentic and rare examples of theatre design in New Zealand and as such the Regent is a landmark building in type and style.
Building Permit Plans, PNCC (Microfilm file) 72/56-71
Building Permit Register, PNCC, Archives Series 4/13/1, granted 18/12/29
NZHPT File, Regent Theatre, Palmerston North, 12008-007