Melbourne’s Regent Theatre has had many a chapter written in its storied history. Designed by Charles Ballantyne and opened in 1929, the interwar era theatre was a mainstay of Melbourne nightlife until a fire ripped through its interior in 1945, which saw it shut for four years.
From 1949 the theatre reopened until it shut its doors in 1970. 20 years later, property developer David Marriner convinced Melbourne City Council to refurbish the precinct, which was given the green light in 1993, with its grand (re)opening occurring on 17 August 1996. In 2019, Lovell Chen took to futureproofing the theatre, ensuring the curtain won’t fall on this iconic building.
The work completed by Lovell Chen sought to sustain the venue as a place for world class live theatre. Through simply re-planning and making structural alterations within the auditorium, the theatre’s operational flexibility, functionality and intimacy have all been vastly increased. The changes have come with little impact that is visible to attendees, with a number of decorative pieces remaining intact.
The most spectacular intervention undertaken by the practice is the extension of the full-width Dress Circle balcony by 3.7m towards the stage. Carried out in conjunction with Irwinconsult (WSP Group), a unique construction method allowed the Plaza Ballroom below to remain operating despite the overhaul.
The stalls area of the venue has been re-raked in order to ensure better sightlines for audience members. New seating has been installed with revised configurations in order to better the experience for all theatre-goers. Two bars sit comfortably at the rear of the auditorium.
Although subtle, the alterations made to the Regent Theatre by Lovell Chen have increased accessibility and the experience for attendees. A remarkable venue loved by visitors far and wide, the gothic building will continue to present the best in show well into its senility.