Regent Cinema

A potted history

By Trevor Chepstow

The Regent Cinema was at 133 Queen's Road/133 North Street, Brighton, on the site where Boots the chemists now stands. It was originally intended to be called the "Regent" Kinema Theatre.

The Regent was opened on July 27, 1921, by Provincial Cinematography Theatres Ltd. The new cinema stood on the site of the historic Unicorn Inn (built 1597, demolished 1920). It was the first of PCT's super cinemas, costing more than £400,000.

The cinema was designed by Robert Atkinson (1888-1953), with interiors by Walpole Champneys, including murals by Walter Bayes (1869-1956) principal of the Royal College of Art. The proscenium was designed by Lawrence Preston of Brighton College of Art.

A restaurant with an orchestra, the Ship Café and an upstairs dance hall, were opened in 1923. The dance-hall was reputed to have one of the best-sprung floors in the country.

Timeline of the Regent Cinema

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. Acquired by Gaumont British Picture Corporation.

1948
2,024 seats, prices 1s 9d-4s 6d, continuous performances

1953
Acquired by Odeon Cinemas Ltd.

1955, April 13 -19 May
Closed during modifications to circle to allow for CinemaScope presentations.

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

Sent to the website via the contribution form on 05-11-03
This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
Do you have any pictures of the interior, before and after the conversions to wide screen presentations?
By Anthony Thom (31/08/2004)

Anyone have fond memories of the Regent on Thursdays in the 1960s? Start in the Galleon bar downstairs before hitting the dance floor. Who was that brilliant DJ? Remember the last record of the evening? Yep,Ricky Nelsons "It's Late" and it was only 11 o'clock.

By Tony Clevett (11/02/2007)

Yes, Tony, I remember the record nights on Thursdays, and the bouncy floor, dancing to all the great records of the day, pointy shoes and very full skirts with loads of petticoats or very tight skirts that we had to take very small steps with. Oh how we groaned when we heard Ricky Nelson 'It's late' - time to go home - 11 pm!

By Sandie Waller (nee Taylor) (27/05/2007)

You are right about 'It's Late', Sandie. A great record, but it meant the end of another Thursday night and the rush for the bus or the long walk home. You girls really looked the business in your Charleston skirts, us guys in our Italian suits with bum-freezer jackets and winklepicker shoes. I have most of those records on CD to bring back the memories, and those of the Florida Rooms on Sundays.

By Tony Clevett (02/09/2007)

I loved the Regent on a Thursday. Like for most young folks then, it was the highlight of the week. The only one we could afford. Boy, oh boy! What a dance floor - it was like a comfort cushion - nervous dancers felt like a million dollars! It didn't matter if you knew the right steps, nobody cared!

By Sheila Jones (12/09/2007)

I remember the Italian suits, Tony.  I remember most of you boys used to prop up the bar until towards the end of the evening. Did you need Dutch courage to ask us to dance to that last record? We girls used to dance round our handbags, didn't we? I have some discs with the old numbers on too. I often missed my bus and had to walk home to Hove. We didn't seem to worry about walking home on our own so much then, there were not so many wierdos to be frightened of.

By Sandie Waller (11/12/2007)

How much would £400,000 (the 1921 building cost) be at today's prices? Does anyone know?

By Adrian Baron (12/01/2008)

£400,000 at todays rate would be £12,200,000. I too have so many memories of the Regent Ballroom, we that is my friends and I, used to go sometimes three times a week and then to the Sunday afternoon tea dances. I first went to the dances in 1950. Perhaps some will remember the girls used to gather in a group just off the dance floor and we used to call it the cattle market but I met many great girls. If only the boys now going to discos and jigging around would realise the advantages we had, to dance in those days you actually held the girl in your arms fairly close in fact, if you had done the same thing just going up to a girl at say a bus stop and put your arms around her as you did when dancing you would probably get a smack round the face. I have diaries going back to 1953 with many mentions of going to the Regent.

By Ken Ross (15/01/2008)

Ah, the Regent Ballroom. What an experience for us Sunday evening dancing boys with the girls standing at the 'Cattle Market', waiting for a turn with whoever fancied it. The finest two bobs worth in the town. (20p today!)
Wartime and after, a packed floor for every dance. Glen Miller stuff by Syd Dean and his band. The band had that mixture of clarinet, saxes and trumpet off to a tee. The trumpet player especially was exceedingly well accomplished, matching the best in the land. Never again will a dance floor be so crowded with bodies against bodies, smooching to that favourite of the time, the Miller Medley. I met my wife to be out of the 'Cattle Market'. Joy and me, we were perfect partners, especially with smooching to the Miller music. That would be 58 years ago. I like Ken's comment about the advantage of being able to properly dance with a girl close in one's arms. Nothing like it. The cycle of events may yet again see such a civiized way of introducing the sexes to one of the most exciting periods of their lives ... !

By Ron Spicer (19/08/2008)

When the Regent reopened after the fire on July 1st 1929 the original 3 Manual Hill Norman and Beard Organ of 1921 had been replaced with a new 2 manual 9 rank Wurlitzer Organ. Opus 2046 now played daily throughout the summer at Paul Corin's MagnificentMusicMachinesMuseum in Cornwall. www.paulcorinmusic.co.uk

By Paul Corin (25/08/2008)

I remember going to the Regent cinema as a boy in the mornings and we all b elonged to the GB club (Gaumont British) I believe,and singing the club song as follows:
We come along on Saturday morning, greeting everybody with a smile.
We come along on Saturday morning, knowing that it's well worth while,
We members of the GB club we all intend to be,
Good citizens when we grow up,and champions of the free,
We come along on Saturday morning, greeting everybody with a smile, smile, smile,
Greeting everybody with a smile.
Good old days in the 40s.

By Henry (John) Stenhouse (25/01/2009)

The memories that Tony Clevett recall about the DJ? In the Galleon Bar the DJwas Graham Star ( Graham Lambert). And I believe another DJ who would be around at that time also could be Barry Kingston. I do know that Barry is living still in Brighton in the Kemp Town area.

By Tom Bonnor (27/10/2009)

I too used to go to the Galleon Bar and remember the DJs mentioned. I also remember the drag shows that were held there. Drag acts were Bunny Laine and Gordon. Gordon used to perform many Shirley Bassey numbers and wore many beautiful sequinned dresses, like she used to wear. I remember a TV programme, probably about 10 years ago, showing Bunny Laine running a bar in Spain somewhere. The Galleon was a great bar, always busy, and you could always find someone in there that you knew.

By Val Staveley (nee Carey) (16/11/2009)

The manager of the Regent in 1947 was a Mr. Underhill. His son joined the Royal Naval School of Music in October of that year, but was discharged soon after on medical grounds. I often wonder what happened to him. I was in the same squad(104)and lived at Ardingly.

By Chris Comber (22/12/2009)

I find it very strange that in all the history of Brighton's cinemas there is not one picture of a projection room and never a mention of the projectionists. This band of people behind the "beam of light" seem to be completely non existent. Very sad.

By John Wall (21/10/2010)

I was about 10 when the Regent was tragically pulled down. I paid one of the demolition men a quid for one of the strange ceramic faces on the front of the building - it was broken in two, but fitted together just fine. I struggled home with it (it weighed a lot for a ten year old) and I have it to this day in my front room. Makes me sick how they pulled down beautiful buildings like this and replaced them with concrete rubbish.

By Martin Reeves (02/10/2011)

Hey Val Stavely (nee Carey), do you remember the Marmion Youth Club?

By Jon W. (04/03/2012)

Yes, I remember The Marmion Youth Club well, in the '70s. I used to go there with Dot, Shirley, Carol & Sue. There was also Teresa who used to sit at the coffee bar, and others. The leader was Ted Milburn and there was Ian & Carol Curme and a guy called Pete - "Why don't you do something constructive?", he always used to say. We remember the Friday night dances with the Mark Adam Five. Jon W? Would you be Joff Wadey by any chance?

By Val Staveley (22/04/2012)

In 1930, an Austin 'Whippet' bi-plane was strung up outside the Regent Cinema to promote the film 'Hells Angels' which starred Howard Hughes and Ben Lyon. Does anyone remember this, or better still, what happened to the 'Whippet' biplane afterwards? Jim Stringer (Vice President - The Vintage Austin Register)

By James Stringer (02/05/2012)

Hey Val ......Joff! No one has called me that in nearly 40 years, how are you? For sure you have the memory of an elephant, I'm amazed how well you remember all those names from so long ago. If I recall correctly you had a beautiful little blue eyed boy, how old is now? Oh maybe this isn't the website for such a chat. My email add. jwjb@aol.com.

By Jon Wadey (21/05/2012)

I worked at the Regent Ballroom from 1962 to 1966 when I moved down to the Kingswest Suite.  I was an engineer and part time DJ, I was known as Trevor St John. I remember the bingo session in the afternoon - all the setting up in the mornings, heavy druggets to cover that sprung floor and the setting out of hundreds of chairs, all to be put away late afternoon to be ready for the dance hall in the evenings. Then the happy hours spent operatting the lights and sound equipment for Sid Dean with Babara Windsor as his female singer.  Then there was Ray Smith on the small bandstand in the corner covering Syd's breaks.  Ray moved to the Watford Suite and became a big band where I worked with him for a while in 1968 /69.

By Trevor Pole (13/07/2014)

With reference to my previous comment regarding the Austin Whippet bi-plane, I am urgently seeking a photograph of it. Does anyone have such a thing please?

By James Stringer (20/01/2016)

Would the gentleman who very kindly found an excellent photograph of the Austin Whippet please email me, as 'Messenger' deleted your communication before I could take down any details. Many thanks. Jim  Jamescharlesstringer02@gmail.com

By James Stringer (13/02/2016)

For James Stringer re: the Austin Whippet biplane photo. It can be found here:- https://yooniqimages.com/images/detail/102376676/Creative/regent-cinema-brighton-which-is-showing-the-film-hells-angels-an-austin-whippet-biplane-which-had-been-flown-to-shoreham-airfield-by-flying-officer-leach-is-on-display-above-the-canopy-to-advertise-this-film-about-aviators
I see the photo is available for sale so the online image carries a watermark to discourage downloading but there may be other copies elsewhere on the internet.

By Bob from Brighton (13/02/2016)

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