Opening of the Regent Theatre, Brisbane (1929)

"A new era in theatrical entertainment in Brisbane was ushered in last night when Hoyts Theatres Ltd. opened the doors of the Regent Theatre to more than 3,000 people", reported Brisbane newspaper The Telegraph on the official gala charity opening of the Regent Theatre in Queen Street on 8 November 1929. This month marks the 90th anniversary.

Interior of the Regent Theatre in Brisbane, Ca. 1969: Collection Reference: 9982 Palmos Family Photograph. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

As part of our historical collections, State Library of Queensland holds two items documenting the construction and opening of this elegant American-style picture palace. First is an architectural plan of the Regent Theatre, produced by Melbourne architect Charles N. Hollinshed in association with Brisbane architect Richard Gailey Jr. The plan, dated 16 January 1929, is on waxed linen and shows a longitudinal section of the theatre. The plan is available to view onsite at State Library.

Architectural plan of Brisbane's Regent Theatre, 16 Jan 1929. 3011 Hollinshed & Gailey, Associate Architects 1929. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Another significant collection item is an original souvenir program from the official opening. The illustrated program produced by Hoyts Theatres Ltd features promotional advertisements for the companies involved in the construction and features of the new theatre, including building contractors A.J. Dickinson, Cahills Ltd suppliers of chocolates and ice-cream, chandeliers and other light fixtures by Wm. Bedford Ltd, and its Brunswick-Kroeschell air-conditioning system installed by Hunt's Australia Ltd.

The Regent, Brisbane : souvenir programme , 1929. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

The program also details the opening night's festivities which included the National Anthem performed by the Regent Grand Concert Orchestra, Fox Movietone News covering current events, including a policy speech by new Prime Minister James Scullin, and organist Stanley Wallace played a selection of music from operas on the Wurlitzer. The feature presentation was a screening of the US musical film, Fox Movietone Follies of 1929. A detailed description of the gala opening was published in The Telegraph the following day. The souvenir program is available to view onsite.

Wurlitzer organ being installed in the Regent Theatre in Brisbane, ca. 1929. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image 135068

Additionally State Library has a number of digitised photographs of the Regent Theatre, which can be viewed online via our One Search catalogue.

The Regent Theatre was redeveloped in the 1970s and again in the 2010s under much controversy. A detailed history of the Regent building and its redevelopments can be found on the Queensland Heritage Register.

Further information

Further collection items on the Regent Theatre

Myles Sinnamon - Engagement Officer, State Library of Queensland


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Thank you. Great article. I must say I’d never really given the concept of how silent pictures really were silent - except for the musical accompaniment provided by pianists, orchestras, and the Wurlitzer organs that graced many theatrical productions. Despite my being a film major, I did not appreciate the real experience of silent films. This past Halloween night, we attended the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles for a special screening of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” 1923, with Lon Chaney. It was stupendous. Seeing the film on a large theatrical screen. Hearing the accompanying original musical score played by the one man organist on the world renown Disney Hall organ. I had a sense, we all did, that we had been taken back in time to our parents and grandparents era. It was an unforgettable evening. Then this morning I wake up to this news celebration of the 90th year since the opening of the Regent Theater - with this photo of their grand Wurlitzer organ. So within a week, I experience the thrill of seeing a talkie on a “huge theatrical screen” in one of the finest acoustical theaters in the world and then read of the 90th anniversary of the Regent’s very grand opening. Serendipity? The coincidence is not lost on me. My mum would have been sixteen years old. I just know she would have been one of the Regents first attendees.