Text Box:  On our recent visit to the Newcastle area we decided to look at some antiques stores at Islington & while exploring the many stalls  within the three story Edwardian style  building on the corner of Maitland Road & Beaumont Street, we looked up & suddenly realised that these premises may have been a theatre many years ago, the ornate ceiling,  the stage area, upstairs dress circle with a stair case from the foyer  & special box stalls at the sides gave a good hint as to the possible history of the building.
  Indeed upon researching the matter we uncovered a gem with an incredible past. Yes it had been a theatre, in fact it was originally the Herbert’s later to be renamed as the Regent Theatre built in 1928/29.
  The site had been an open air picture theatre since December 1911 & was originally Herbert’s Pictures No 2 Show owned by the renowned Mr William Herbert who had similar theatres throughout Newcastle, Islington, Broadmeadow & Hamilton. The venue received a roof in 1912.
  In 1928 plans were prepared by Mr E. F. Hewitt for a major rebuilding of the Islington theatre. Hewitt was a designer of industrial buildings and worked for BHP, so this project gave him the opportunity to revel in a more creative and flamboyant style in designing this theatre. The new building was constructed around the old one, & opened 9 December 1928. 
  Talkies were the rage in Hollywood by now so the new Regent was built to show these & had a huge sign on the parapet proclaiming the fact to entice many amazed patrons. Apparently by media accounts of the time stated that the synchronisation equipment worked perfectly.
  The opening night program included Fox's Big Synchronised Special, 'The Air Circus'  a story of 2 eager  pilot trainees vying for the affections of their love interest, the daughter of their flight trainer, who also happened to be a pilot as well and 'The Melody of Love' a romantic musical with Walter Pidgeon, in  his first “Talkie”

  Mr Herbert arranged a first release contract with MGM from May 1932 to give his three theatres (Hamilton, Islington and Broadmeadow De-Luxe) exclusive rights to MGM films. This only lasted until November that year, when the three theatres were sold to Newcastle Amusements. Later, the Regent came under the control of Newcastle Theatres Ltd and in 1941/42 Hoyts acquired a major interest in that company.

  The advent of television signalled the decline for the big picture theatres and, like many others, the Regent closed down in June 1964. By that time, seating capacity was 1,543. It is possible that Hoyts used the building as a store for a time after its closure. In 1968 a proposal to turn the cinema into a dance hall fell through. In August 1969, S and A Harrison purchased the property and converted it into a supply store for builders and renovators. Although the exterior and interior remained virtually unaltered, the street awning was removed. The earthquake of 1989 caused some damage to the curved parapet at the front and rear stage wall.

  This beautiful building has since been restored and repainted externally, but is in need of some major renovation inside to repair the cracked paster, peeling paint and general damaged caused by water & termites.

  Despite the ware & tear on the building, it remains a rare excellent example of a 1920s style movie theatre & every effort should be made to preserve it for future generations to enjoy & dream about  what it was like going to the movies when the industry was in it’s infancy. People getting dressed up in their finest maybe even being chauffeur driven to the theatre for a night of entertainment, sipping Champagne with the A listers.

  The building was considered by the State heritage Register listings committee in 2008 and found to have state heritage significance but not acted upon any further.

   There are currently shops leasing space in the downstairs sections of the building.

Thank you to the NSW Gov. Office of Environment & Heritage. Visit their site for the fully story on this fascinating building.


Special Thanks to the University of Newcastle for allowing us to use the original blue prints of the building from their  Living Histories Archives



Special Thanks to Steven Szabath for making the journey to get the external photos that I had forgotten to take & to Erin Kemmis for the internal photos.

A great big Thanks also to the University of Newcastle for allowing us to use the original blue prints of the building from their  Living Histories Archives.   https://livinghistories.newcastle.edu.au/nodes/view/83339

Living histories home page https://livinghistories.newcastle.edu.au/