Regent Theatre regent Home Page

History of the Regent Theatre: 1987

By Allan Webb Prev | Next

1987 opened with relief in the form of two films. (This happened to me once before with one film at Te Aroha. After an appalling run, we were given Love Story at the end of December. It had been frozen to independents during November and December due to the fact that it was a poor playing period, but I had told the distributor that it was likely never to play, as the theatre would probably have to close. We screened it for two nights only and filled both of them and the theatre picked up after that). The first film was Footrot Flats, the record breaking New Zealand animated show. It started on a Tuesday and in the first three days we had 1,065 people with one session a day and another 1,268 came over the next full week. A further 1,205 were to come over the next few weeks.

The record breaking Australian film Crocodile Dundee had been playing in Hamilton since before Christmas and we couldn't get hold of it until the middle of February. I considered that since it was not a good playing time and as it had been playing at all the major situations over all of the Christmas/New Year holidays, it would not perform as well as I would have liked it to. Nothing could have been further from the truth as it broke every box office record ever held at the Theatre and screened longer than any other film in the Theatre's history. It played for ten consecutive weeks taking $42,199 at the box office and was seen by 9,863 people.

As we were a single screen operation and we had a lot of repeat business, it was not a good idea to have the same feature taking up screen space over such a long period, so after Croc had been going for a few weeks, I placed some other films at various times. Croc remained the most popular film throughout its duration. It was repeated again in the May School Holidays and another 565 people came.

After that, there were more weeks of 200 odd and the only successful film was Labyrinth during mid-term break with 1,289 in attendance. Croc re-appeared again but only 199 people came that time around.

It must be remembered that apart from Te Awamutu and Matamata, the few other remaining situations had been holding out to close on this film which saw the end of Cambridge and Morrinsville Theatres.

Crocodile was the only success story until May when Platoon plus some other programmes brought out 2,421 people in the second week of the school holidays, double that of the best in the last August School holidays. Business plummeted again apart from mid term break and 2 to 300 admissions for a week was the norm. La Bamba was very successful in the Cities and we got 1,243 customers altogether. By the end of this year we had weeks with only 198, 193 and 171.

However, in the middle of the year, Saturday nights were to crash due to the beginning of Lotto in New Zealand when the winners were shown on television on Saturday nights. Our numbers dropped to one-third of what they had been. This was to have a really bad effect on attendances for many years and when they started playing the TeleBingo on Television on Wednesday nights, they also crashed.

Behind the screen was a large area used for storage since the screen was moved forward 13 years before. I had contemplated utilising this area for a second screen showing 16mm or video, but as the former was being affected by the business of the latter, fewer titles were being brought into the country and 16mm was gradually being phased out. I could not get video titles until they were available to the public and this would not have enticed people to pay to come to the Theatre as they would have been able get the titles from the rental outlets at the same time as we could screen them. There were no good video projectors available at that stage anyway so the screen results would have been very inferior.

The shape of this area was extremely wide compared to the length and the failure of the short lived Prince William Theatre, in the circle of the town hall in Cambridge, was in part due to its dimensions which were similar to those at the back of our screen.

I had put this idea aside but renewed it because business had been so poor and survival would depend upon something different to attract more customers. Against all advice, I decided to alter the back area into a second theatre but reversed the dimensions, putting in a new floor and having a projection room at the far end and a screen at the entrance end, making it what is known as a “front loader”.

I had an automated projector sitting in Australia that I had purchased some time before, seats from the Regent theatre in Wellington, heater and cooling fans from Te Kuiti, some carpet left-overs, curtain from the existing cinema, so the plans took place and all these chattels were to be used.

Unfortunately, due to limited funds, the theatre was not as desirable as I would have liked, but at least it was the beginning of a new venture, the first of any provincial town in New Zealand and the first of any town in the North Island.

As is usual with such undertakings, time is against you, but the second screen did open in the last week of the August School Holidays in 1987 and 21 films altogether were to show in that week.

The opening day films were Sleeping Beauty plus 101 Dalmatians, Malcolm plus Crocodile Dundee, Labyrinth plus Police Academy 4, Salvador plus Bedroom Window.

The equipment was supposed to have been completely overhauled before installation and a Speco platter supplied, but the Australian firm that arranged and installed everything let us down in this regard.

The projector and a Christie platter (they had accidentally sold the Speco platter to someone else) did not perform as well as they should have and often caused projection problems due to their unreliability. The Christie platter was only expected to operate without supervision for up to half an hour and sometimes needed attention during the filming.

I did not get a mortgage to finance this theatre and this was the reason for using existing equipment. It may not have been the best way to have gone about things but I am sure that by keeping costs at a minimum and having no mortgage to service, was the only way to go. The level of business would not have supported anything else.

I had a property which I had intended to develop, but it was evident that due to the poor level of business that this was not going to happen. I sold it and decided to fully air-condition Cinema 2. The heating system was very efficient utilizing the 24 kilowatt electric heater that came from Te Kuiti. It was a bit noisy but worked very well. The same unit was used in summer for cooling, bringing the air from outside. In the ceiling there were two 24 inch exhaust fans which took the hot air out. These also came from Te Kuiti and were originally from the Central theatre in Papatoetoe. Although it was satisfactory, on a very hot day it was difficult to keep the theatre cool. I had Kooline come and assess the situation but I was not happy with their appraisal. However, they assured me that if they installed two units on the ceiling they would give me the required results. I asked them about noise and if the heat would reach the floor level and they said there would be no problems. Not only were the units far too noisy but the heat only came down a few feet from the ceiling. I said that there would have to be a vented system with units in the ceiling and they came up with an alternative scheme which I did not accept and explained how I wanted it completed. It was to be on my own head if it didn't work. Kooline paid for the installation, the manufacturers for the replacement units and I had to pay for all the ducting. The whole thing worked like a charm ever since.

Over the years since, this theatre (Cinema 2 or the Cameo) has been completely redone, to become one of the best intimate cinemas in Australasia. The presentation is superb and the surroundings and the new ventilation, excellent. Looking back, all the projection (including platter) and sound equipment has been replaced, the seating re-upholstered and later on replaced, the wall decorations and lighting renewed, a new ceiling put in place, full air conditioning installed as explained above and two new wall-to-wall screens as well.

Previous | Next