Date opened: Monday 30th July 1928.
Original owner: Provincial Cinematograph Theatre.
Architect: WH Watkins.
First film shown: ‘The Magic Flame’, starring Ronald Colman and Vilma Banky.
Seating Capacity: 2100. Standing Capacity: 300.
Date closed/ Bristol Blitz- destroyed by bombing: Sunday 24th November 1940.
The Regent, Bristol was a Provincial Cinematograph Theatre and made its debut on 30th July 1928. It was opened by the Mayor of Bristol. Before the opening a lunch was given to the invited guests at the Royal Hotel.
The cinema was designed by WH Watkins and was situated in a space from Castle Street to the river bank. The main entrance was in stone and bronze with an impressive canopy. Bronze frames stood each side of the entrance for advertising purposes.
There were four pairs of entrance doors, which were also in bronze, giving access to a spacious vestibule, which had a floor of black and white marble. The staircases were wide in marble mosaic and took you to the cafe, tea lounge, balcony and all parts of the spacious auditorium. Another entrance from Peter Street lead to a spacious crush hall. The cafe and tea lounge was one hundred and twenty feet long and ran the whole width of the building below the balcony. It had an arcade treatment which was decorated in ivory and titian red with a silhouette freeze of dancing nymphs. Lloyd Loom furniture was also present in the cafe area.
Seating was provided for 2100 and standing room was provided for another 300. The crush hall provided space for 1000. The seats were tip-up and upholstered in rose pink, supplied by W. W. Turner from Birmingham. The theatre was decorated in ivory, titanian reds and soft greens and gold. A dome with sunburnt and cloudy blue effects was enhanced by reflective lighting. There were large grills at the side of the proscenium in varying tones of green, gold and silver, giving the effect of fountains.
Generally the cinema was on Roman lines. The proscenium, a freely proportioned arch was decorated with a procession of carnival figures in various colours upon a background of purple. Lighting was was amber and of the concealed type. The proscenium arch opening was thirty two feet high and forty eight feet wide. There was a balcony which was supported by a main girder one hundred and twelve feet long, eight feet three inches deep and weighing fifty seven tons. The stage area covered eighty feet, having a depth of forty feet. Floor space was two thousand square feet. Lighting to the stage was provided by footlights and four coloured battens. House lighting was concealed in three colours and the building contained between five and six hundred lamps.
Like many cinemas of the time the theatre was equipped with a cinema organ. It was a Wurlitzer model F, which had two manuals. It was first played by organist Frank Matthews. Apart from the sound of the Wurlitzer there was an orchestra of twenty under the direction of a Mr TS Clarke- Browne. The operating box was equipped with two Kalee eight projectors with high intensity arcs and Western Electric sound. Also six spotlights were in use.
The opening attraction to roll through the projectors was ‘The Magic Flame’. The first talkie was ‘The Donovan Affair’, opening on August 19th 1929. Sound apparatus was Western Electric. Apart from the film, live acts appeared at opening, including dancers and a soprano singer.
Considered, at the time to be one of Bristol’s finest cinemas it was destroyed by bombing on the 24th November 1940. It was completely demolished as late as 1963.
David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk