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History of the Regent Theatre: 1988

By Allan Webb Prev | Next

The theatre struggled through that year and the Christmas/New Year period was very quiet. We had the James Bond film The Living Daylights but that only managed 414 people in three weeks. This was reminiscent of the times when, in the sixties, Television was affecting attendances when even the big shows were poorly attended by comparison to previous times.

We had a good line-up of new films over the holidays but they performed poorly. This Christmas/New Year was the first in which we ran sessions every hour at 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 o'clock. One night no one turned up to the 9 o'clock show and I went home and forgot to close it down. When I got into bed I remembered and had to go back to the Theatre to turn everything off.

Dirty Dancing in March, 1988, was the biggest film since Crocodile Dundee but had been played out at Hamilton and was not a record breaker. I was told we could have it direct from the Regent but they decided to transfer it from the Regent to the Embassy and each week our opening date was delayed. Nevertheless, we ran it for six weeks, doubling it for the last three and 2,347 people attended over that period.

The Three-Movie-Marathons on Holiday Sundays were no longer the great success they had been and unless a very strong programme was presented, they were marginal.

Three Men and a Baby was a new comedy that did some good business. It was doubled and tripled some of the sessions over Easter and got a total of 1,404 customers.

We were screening a terrific number of titles each week to give us a few hundred admissions. The number of people attending each performance was low and the 2 to 400 admissions weekly was quite normal for both screens put together.

In the May School Holidays there were 22 films shown in various combinations – repeats and new shows.

By the time Police Academy 5 came along everyone had had enough of the series and they were performing poorly. There had been far too many films with far too many sequels and the public was tired of them.

Another Film Festival was arranged with lean results. Sessions ranged from 6 admits to 49.

Mr. Phillips' Company, Pacer, was to merge with Kerridge Odeon to become Pacer Kerridge and the new broom swept all the experienced staff out and new inexperienced staff were put in their place.

Admittedly it was time for new blood but with a lot of staff changes, very few were left who had any detailed knowledge of the industry. While there was still a mix of the old and the new I had a visit from four of the hierarchy who had never seen a twin operation before. They were impressed with what they saw and on the way back in the car they thought up a possible franchise operation. Afterwards I was approached and offered a deal whereby I would give them a percentage of the takings and in return I would get first release product with them doing all the bookings, reduced film hires and availability of their confectionary distribution and equipment division. I agreed to the terms, which ended up costing an average of $400 a week for the service but this gave us a huge shot in the arm and business was to be very buoyant once again.

Getting the new films early and at reasonable film hires and enjoying the candy bar concessions made business very profitable. Unfortunately, this was not to last as Pacer Kerridge started to become financially unsound. The first sign of this was when the major confectionary distributors stopped supply due to non-payment by Pacer Kerridge. Gradually this infiltrated into all areas of their operations and after two and a half years the writing was on the wall and I ended my franchise with them. We were the first to try this method of business in the film industry and we lasted longer than any of the other franchisees that signed up with them.

For the first school holiday period in September, with Pacer Kerridge, we were unable to obtain any first release product as all the prints had been allocated so I gave the booker several old titles which she dated. ET had just been put out on video with a very good television advertising campaign. This was one of the titles that we screened and to my amazement we filled the new theatre each matinee.

The film booker for Pacer Kerridge's small provincials was Val Carter and she said we would get one fair week with Crocodile Dundee II. It ran for a month then it was double featured with The Man From Snowy River II at various times. I tried Crocodile Dundee I and II together as well as doubling with another title, but these programmes did not work. Each time Dundee and Snowy River were screened together the admissions were good. Overall the film ran on and off to complete a 14-week season.

We were getting very good release dates with a lot of day and date programmes at very good hires. We would never have got any of them as a straight independent (non-franchisee) and business was starting to pick up compared with previously but by November admissions were from 135 to 289 and that was with two screens operating. Films like Beetlejuice in the school holidays had 1,083 admissions which was considerably better than anything else we had screened for sometime.

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