The National Trust of New
South Wales, in collaboration with the local Illawarra Branch, has been instrumental
in swiftly bringing the Regent Theatre issue to the attention of authorities
such as the NSW Heritage Office, and in clearly setting out the State significance
of the building. Their action is to be applauded.
The following documents summarise their activities to date - they include the issuing of a statement of significance for the building, the listing of the Regent on their Register of Historic Buildings, and the outcome of discussions with Lend Lease in regards to possible future management options for the Regent.
Statement of Significance - 2 May 2002
The following Statement of Significance for the Regent Theatre, Wollongong, was prepared and endorsed by the Historic Buildings Committee of the National Trust at its meeting of 2 May, 2002:
STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
The Regent Theatre, 197 Keira Street Wollongong designed by Reginald J. Magoffin is of State significance as a rare, intact, large capacity (1630 seat) cinema built in the mid 1950s. It is one of the few intact grand cinemas with dress circle, original furnishings and equipment.
The design characteristics of its auditorium, vestibule, foyer and façade are unique in New South Wales. Its aesthetic significance is enhanced by the almost totally intact nature of the interior and exterior of the theatre. The interior design by Marion Hall Best, in conjunction with Janet Single, was one of her significant public commissions. It is one of the few major surviving examples of this leading practitioner of the Avant Garde. Marion Hall Best is one of the most significant and influential interior designers of her time in New South Wales.
The theatre has technological significance because it was built for Cinemascope. It marks the introduction of wide-screen technology in New South Wales and still retains its original "Cinemascope" screen and 70mm projection equipment. It is one of only four known theatres in New South Wales to retain this original 70mm technology.
The Regent has intimate historical associations with Herbert Wyndham Jones. The theatre represents the culmination of his entrepreneurial endeavours in cinema management in the Illawarra region. Jones pioneered film exhibition from the silent movie days and provided vital entertainment in the days of the Great Depression. His wife Emily, son Maurice and daughter Rowena Milgrove carried on the business after his death in 1943, introducing innovations and technological advancements in their theatres in the region.
The Regent has social significance for the thousands of people throughout NSW who formed its audiences during the past forty five years. It continues to provide the rare theatrical experience of going to a grand cinema that has remained unchanged over five decades.
The Historic Buildings Committee considered a Classification Report for the Listing of the Regent Theatre, Wollongong. The Committee endorsed the Report and adopted the Statement of Significance. The Wollongong Regent has now been given Interim Listing on the National Trust Register pending its consideration by the National Trust Board.
Press Release - 6 May 2002
NATIONAL TRUST SEEKS SOLUTION TO RETAIN WOLLONGONG’S HISTORIC REGENT THEATRE
Representatives from the National Trust and Lend Lease met today regarding the future of the Regent Theatre in Wollongong.
National Trust Executive Director, Elsa Atkin said that, while the Trust supported the proposed revitalisation of Wollongong’s City Centre, the main auditorium of the historic 1950s Regent Theatre should be retained as an important, and viable part of the city’s heritage.
"While there is a strong argument for an enhanced entertainment complex in the city centre, it is vital that we recognise the value of theatres such as the Regent, and their significance as well-loved community icons", Ms Atkin said.
"The Regent was first nominated by the Trust in 1995 as one of eleven surviving intact historic cinemas in NSW it has social, architectural and technological attributes of State significance. In terms of its viability, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has accepted a National Trust pilot proposal for heritage cinemas which, if adopted in the Voluntary Code of Conduct between Film Distributors and Exhibitors could result in the renewed viability of large, single screen cinemas such as the Regent.
"In today’s discussion the Trust highlighted this significance and the potential at this early stage in the proposal, and suggested alternatives which would allow the auditorium to be retained. This has already been achieved successfully with other historic theatres, such as the Albury Regent, Cremorne Orpheum and Randwick Ritz, where redevelopment has been sensitive to the character and integrity of the buildings.
"The National Trust's input was welcomed by Lend Lease. Lend Lease will review the Voluntary Code of Conduct to assess the commercial viability of a large single screen theatre in Wollongong.
"The National Trust will continue to work with Lend Lease in addressing the future of the Regent Theatre to provide the best possible outcome for the Wollongong community," said Ms Atkin.