The Regent Centre is situated in the middle of Christchurch High Street and is the cinema, theatre, concert hall, art gallery and entertainment centre serving Christchurch, East Dorset and the New Forest.
The Regent opened on Boxing Day 1931 as the town’s cinema, a role it retained until July 1973, when it was closed and then re-opened as the Mecca Social and Bingo Club. The final cry of ‘house’ was sounded in February 1982.
The need for an arts centre in Christchurch had already been well established in the town and in November 1982, Christchurch Borough Council purchased the Regent. A unique relationship was formed between the local authority and a group of over 100 enthusiastic volunteers. Together, they lovingly restored the Regent to all its early Art Deco glory. The Regent Centre in its present form was finally opened on June 11th 1983 by the actress Dora Bryan.
Today, the Regent Centre is one of the finest examples of an early 1930s cinema to survive in Britain. Its 480 seats are regularly filled for events as diverse as the latest film releases to professional touring theatre, jazz, big band, ballet, opera and celebrity star shows. The Regent is also the home venue for many local amateur companies, who regularly stage productions at the Centre.
The Regent maintains a rolling programme of development and improvements and on 28th March 2000, a new Studio Theatre was opened, at the rear of the building, jointly funded by the Regent Centre Association and the Council as the Borough’s main Millennium project.
During the latter part of 2006, funding was provided by Christchurch Borough Council for a major refurbishment of the Centre. This included the introduction of new seats, air conditioning, disabled lifts and loos and the Modernist re-design of the Foyer.
In February 2007 the final stage of the major refurbishment began with the re-introduction of a canopy over the front doors for the first time since 1967. Two new convex poster boards on the two supporting pillars at either side of the canopy combined with 1930s neon style signage, have tastefully re-created the early Art Deco heritage of the Regent.
Since 2008 the Regent has been able to use new technology to bring in satellite broadcasts of major artistic events from around the world to the Centre’s big screen. Today, the Regent Centre remains the heart of entertainment in Christchurch.