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Schoolboy reminiscences

A sad sight - the demolition of the Regent Cinema
Image reproduced with kind permission of The Royal Pavilion and Museums Brighton and Hove

Surrounded by opulence

I remember sitting in a near-empty Regent auditorium one afternoon in the dog days of the summer school holidays, surrounded by opulence, the faint smell of chewing gum filtering up from under the seats, and watching Lawrence of Arabia for the first time. Thank goodness I got to see David Lean’s masterpiece in 70mm in such fabulous surroundings. The experience has remained ever since. And how can I forget watching the ‘Battle of Britain’ as part of a mob of howling, cheering schoolboys.

The demolition days

More poignantly, I have a memory of breaking into the half demolished cinema one evening with a mate from school. The auditorium ceiling was down, as was the roof of the ballroom, but suspended across the void, was this incredible intricate mesh of the sprung ballroom floor. It was like looking up at the inside of a vast mattress. The acrid smell of burnt timber and plaster dust pervaded then, the aroma of chewing gum was a thing of the past. The screen was long gone, and the stage behind revealed, all blackened brick, along with its fly tower; was it ever used?

Front of house area

In the front of house area, revealed by the stripping off of more modern additions, were miraculously surviving glass fronted poster displays for long forgotten films Mary Pickford in ‘Pollyanna’ and HB Warner in ‘The White Dove’ were two that I can remember. I bet they did not survive, and I wonder what would they be worth now? The Regent – a pearl in the pig trough cast. And if it had survived, people would flock to it in hordes now.

Comments about this page

  • I saw Lawrence of Arabia in Brighton when on holiday in the 60s, so I suppose it must have been at the Regent, as it was the time of its first release. The Cinema was full, despite being in the afternoon, and a great film it was, too. But I lost interest in the cinema as an entertainment, and have never returned due to hearing difficulties. Judging by the stuff repeated on TV, I don’t think I have missed much!

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (22/04/2012)
  • I attended the Saturday Morning Club at the Regent cinema, it must have been around 1948/49. We saw 2 short films and of course Dick Barton Special Agent, with Snowy White his right hand man. Of course we also saw cartoons. I also remember the organist coming up from below and the girls coming around with drinks and a few goodies. I still have my photo taken on stage with the organist and the rest of the children. Greetings from Canada.

    By Diana Anstead (Bowyer) (18/11/2012)
  • If ever there was a case for preserving a building then the Regent was it. Was it really necessary to demolish it? It wasn’t done for road widening as the Boots store occupies the same site. It surely could have been converted to a night club or concert venue. I wonder if any artifacts were saved.

    By Tony Clevett (16/12/2012)
  • The upstairs was turned into a cabaret bar -  it was one of the first drag act bars in Brighton in the 1960s. It had a sprung floor for dancing and I remember seeing the Kinks there, that corner sight was the very first Virgin Record Store where you were able to go and listen to the records before you bought them. You could sit on large floor cushions with headphones on. The Hippie days of the 60s

    By Wendy Lawrence nee Dawson (02/06/2013)
  • If they ever wanted to rebuild the Regent, I know who has the original plans, they were found in a tiny room behind the main screen, just before its demolition.

    By Martin Phillips (18/07/2015)
  • I’m sure the Galleon bar was below the cinema. We used to go and watch the drag acts on a friday night – Bunny Lane etc.

    By Dave Hodgkinson (25/04/2017)
  • I got into the Regent Cinema site as it was being demolished (no health & safety back then!). I was 10 or 11 years old. I gave a demolition worker £1 for one of the porcelain Greek Drama faces that were on the front, sadly broken in half. The one I saw that was whole had a massive lump of concrete stuck behind it so it was way too heavy for me. I struggled home with the two pieces of the face that I had.
    Still have the face today… one of my most cherished possessions.
    Brighton Museum used to show some of the other porcelain facades, but they must have stored it away now.
    Mad that they pulled down buildings like this. Even as a kid I knew it was so wrong.
    Message to Martin Phillips: I’d be interested to see the original plans…

    By Martin Reeves (05/01/2020)

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