The Regent’s Progression
The New Regent Picture House Cinema was designed by a local firm of architects: Lumb & Watson of Clifton Street in 1921 who had previously designed the new Savoy hotel on the promenade. The building took twelve months to construct from initial foundations through to internal fit out.
The building is made completely of reinforced concrete construction, having been cast on site by a local firm J. Fielding & Sons with the main contractors for the erection of the building being down to Messrs. Chadwick Bros., of Layton, who are still in business but now as a builder supply company. The internal furnishings were provided by Messrs. Claughton of Leeds.
At time of construction a reinforced concrete beam of some 65 feet was the largest cast beam in the country and is used to support the whole of the floor of the grand circle. Having the building completely constructed in reinforced concrete: all walls, floor plates, balcony, roof and upper balcony, the building had the claim of the most fire proofed building built in Blackpool and the architects claimed it would be impossible to burn down, a claim that is substantiated by the excessive numbers of fire escapes within the design layout.
The front of The Regent is in the neo-grec style of architecture, a development of the renaissance, but considerably simplified by being divested of a great part of the elaborate ornamentation characteristic of that style. It successfully follows the then tendency to emphasise the main lines without elaboration of detail.
The whole of the front facades are faced with Middleton fireclay ceramo, a white glazed terra cotta tile. There are beautiful tints which tone down the intense glare that would come from pure whiteness.
The main entrance was via Regent Road and Church Street, through an octagonal vestibule with an ornate plaster dome ceiling and quarter pillars down to a marble floor. From this vestibule , access was gained to the rear of the Grand Balcony via a sweeping marble staircase or via mahogany doors to the ground floor stalls.
The Regent had seating for 1092 at opening with 420 seats situated in the Grand Balcony and an additional 42 in a smaller ‘private’ upper balcony. A unique design point of The Regent was the retractable roof to the centre of the main auditorium ceiling, originally made of glass but later replaced with grids. It was opened via a large cast pull arms inserted into gaps upon the roof and is still operational today. Once opened a single large reinforced concrete curve is visible from the auditorium.
The ventilation system of the building was one of an untested means and claimed to have been one of the most effective in any cinema ever built at the time. It comprised of a series of outlets to the ceiling of the ‘stalls’ area connected to an electrical fan. The upper ventilation was by a series of outlet gratings in the large cornice, being in fact, a continual duct which was connected to a larger fan on the roof of the building. It proved to be a very efficient system and is still complete today.
At the opening of The Regent on Monday 17th January 1921, the internal wall decorations were only of a temporary nature due to the concrete walls having not dried out sufficiently to allow the designed plaster mouldings to be adhered to and a basic covering was used for 6 months, but the current plastered ceiling was installed for opening as this sits upon thin wooden battens. The chosen colour scheme was that of Wedgewood blue and cream with rich gold and black Wilton carpets throughout.
The original screen used, was a then new style rubber based one, which was attached via 166 small springs to allow for any vibrations to be minimal and the operating room was fitted out with the latest of equipment for the time with a large fan installed under the exterior dome to give the ventilation required for the 2 large projectors.
A ‘live’ orchestra amounting to five were accommodated in a well under the screen and remained like this until the cinema was altered to accommodate sound.
The Regent’s first film was that of ‘The call of the road’ starring Stewart Rowe and its first weeks regular screening was ‘A member of Tattersall’s’ starring Isobel Elsmo in ‘a racing film’.
The cinema was slightly altered in 1939 having a new colour scheme introduced and sound facilities added. It was again altered in the early 1950’s with new seating and again upgraded sound and projection equipment.
On May 3rd 1953 ‘A day in the country’ was screened, being the first cinema in the area to show a 3D film. The Regent was also the first cinema to install cinemascope with full 4 track magnetic stereo sound and this was first used on July 11th 1954 showing ‘King of the Khyber rifles’.
The Regent proved to be a popular cinema up to 1969 when it started to be used for bingo during the week showing its last film ‘Cromwell’ on the 23rd October 1971.
During its time as a cinema, it had always been operated, run and owned by private companies but at its closure it then passed in the ownership of multi-national companies, the first being Coral who converted The Regent into a designated bingo hall opening in August 1973. It had its ownership and name changed on a few occasions the last being Gala in 1993. Each name change included a refurbishment to the building in 1983, 1987 and 1994. The rake floor to the ‘stalls’ were levelled in one of these refurbishments and the building next door was knocked into to create a new entrance and facilities. The economics and viability of bingo was lost and the next transition of the building occurred in 2007 when it was converted into a snooker and pool hall.
This had a dramatic effect to the look of the internal layout of the building, by a suspended ceiling being added over the grand balcony level and may in fact have saved most of the original features above.
We now see the building as it is today...