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History of the Regent Theatre: The Building

Originally, 2/3 of the theatre frontage belonged to the REGENT LOUNGE and the remaining third was for the MILK BAR in the main part and theatre display board took the rest, behind which were the Ticket and Manager’s night offices. In a 1931 plan the add-on section to the right of the main theatre building was to be a shop with one door at the left and a window for the rest of the frontage. Presumably this was to be theatre Milk Bar. The main entrance doors to the Theatre were to be the left of this shop, in others words, to the right of the main building and this was to be made up of four entry doors. Above both the entrance doors and the shop leaded lights were to be placed.

Above the shop there was to be a room with four small windows on the facade, each made up of three sections of glass . However, the plans were changed and these things did not come to fruition. It probably made better sense to include the Milk Bar with the Lounge rather than have it as a separate entity. The Ticket Office would have been about four feet wide and about eight feet deep. The Manager’s night office (the day office was a room next to the projection room with a separate entry from the theatre dress circle) would have been about the same size although it also had another section about the same size again which went in to the area occupied by the Milk Bar. The wall continued from that point to the end of the small area with the stairs on the far side and the toilets at the far end. This space was only about four feet wide by less than nine feet deep. This wall had a servery from the Milk Bar, for theatre patrons ,that opened out into the small section between the stairs and the left wall right at the back the towards the toilet(s).

Regent in the 1930s

The Regent Lounge and Milk Bar was leased by H D Caro who one year later subleased the left portion of the Lounge as a shop to Great Value Stores Ltd. (Drapery) by placing a poilite wall up about half-way. Originally, the Regent Lounge and the Milk Bar were one and basically took over most part of the front of the main building. The only section left was taken by the ticket office as the theatre entrance was built on to the right side of the main building.

In March 1935 Caro applied for permission to make alterations to the premises recently occupied by Great Value Stores and this was approved. At this time, he asked for a reduction in rent. He was entitled to a rent reduction of 20% under the National Expenditure Act and accordingly the monthly rental payable from that time was to be 31 pounds and 4 shillings.

By 1935 Jas. Martin had the Lounge although it is unknown when he started business there, and H D Caro ran the shop that was occupied by Great Value Stores. By mid 1937 Martin’s lease was taken over by the Picture Corporation. The Corporation bought the partitions, fittings and shelving of the shop and took over the Martin’s sublease from Caro who was to pay the cost of bricking up the wall. Probably this was the left wall which had an opening to the shop (or Billiard Room) next door which started off as a Jewellers Shop and then Fletcher had it as a Boot Store and later it became a Jewellers again and remained as such until closure. When that building was demolished the theatre wall was visible and the bricked up opening was apparent.

In 1937 a new foyer was built at a cost of 1,150 pounds and the Picture Corporation’s rent was increased by 115 pounds. The foyer was built along the right side of the main building and I believe a new kitchen was built underneath, and remained until Cinema 3 was built. The foyer provided a second entrance into the front stalls area of the theatre, a new Gent’s toilet was constructed at the end of this foyer as well as an Ice Cream Booth (according to the plan)/Coffee Bar (as told to me by Trevor Clark when he was the Company’s Chairman) complete with a very small room with a sink and cupboard underneath. The said Bar was operated by the Regent Lounge tenant. It was quite long and narrow and curved at the front end. When the cork tiles were visible it was possible to see where the Bar was situated and the shape of it, as it was a lot darker than the rest of the floor.

Just after this, the Corporation purchased 24 feet of Teasdale’s property to the right of the theatre building. Alterations to suit Martin were made to the room along side the kitchen, a lavatory was provided and a right-of-way to Teasdale St. as he had lost this access due to the building of the new theatre foyer. It appears from a plan that the lavatory was also used by the Theatre patrons.

At the same time (1937) Caro surrendered the shop which was leased to Fletcher and by the end of 1939 the Lounge was in the hands of de Malmanche.

Milk bar
Milk Bar circa 1939
Milk Bar

By April 1941 the lounge was owned by Redwood and in Sept 1941by Thompson.

All of the above tenants continually asked for reductions in rental.

In June 1943 L G Jones leased the Lounge and in 1944 also leased the shop, which was being used by the Patriotic Society, with M Pearson.

In Sept 1946 Jones had disposed of the Lounge to Zdenko Mrkusich who also operated the Milk Bar and employed the first theatre tray boys. Ron Donovan was one of two first tray boys and he told me that Mrkusich, who was known as Dickie, was a very hard worker and made the food at the back right of the premises. He reputably became the biggest caterer in NZ and was caterer for the Peter Pan Cabaret in Auckland.

A Komminoth had the Lounge probably from March 1952.

In Nov 1954 he sought permission to subdivide the Lounge premises and relinquish the tenancy of part of the premises and this was approved. (In Oct 1955 he asked for a further subdivision of the portion of the premises occupied by him but this request was not acceded to.)

Also in Nov 1954 Maughan and Barton took over the shop as a Sports Centre.

In Oct 1957 Mr Kernohan was a subtenant of the Lounge.

By Sept 1960 it appears the tenants were Maughan and Barton and E S Kernohan.

From this point on there was no further mention of leasing of the shops by the Corporation.

In 1963/64 major alterations to the areas which included the Lounge/Milk Bar/Offices and the enlargements to the Lounge kitchen and counter area were made and I believe that at this stage the Corporation leased the theatre only and the Regent Theatre Company took over the the leases of the existing shop plus the new shop and the coffee lounge.

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