News archive

This is an archive of material from the old Save the Regent website.
April 9, 2008:
Theatre owner, entrepreneur and former television host Mike Walsh OBE has backed the campaign to save and restore the Regent. Here's what he says:
"I think that saving and restoring The Regent Theatre Brisbane is a great idea , if a fully functional 1500 – 2000 seat live theatre can be built.
"In a city growing as quickly and prosperously as Brisbane is, how marvellous to have another theatre for musicals ,etcetc. It could be an essential part of the equation in mounting large scale musicals ,and become part of the tour. The QPAC Lyric is a fine theatre, but there will be a need for an alternative, as commercial theatre is booming in the London West End,Broadway, and Europe."

The Aussietheatre.com website has also run a story about STR and has said it is backing the campaign.

April 6:
The Victorian Government is reportedly backing a plan to build a theme park in a bid to steal away some of the tourists who come the various "worlds" on the Gold Coast. Surely that's an incentive for the Queensland Government to restore the Regent as a live venue so we can steal some of the tourists who currently go to Melbourne to see big musicals.
April 5
The saga of the YouTube video continues. A lot is being said about it on the Net - including at my Showbritz website. A new story at the Courier-Mail website quotes the originator of the video as saying "The Save The Regent people told Warner" Music about the clip. Not true. I contacted Paolo Nutini's publicist and asked whether the Scottish singer knew his music was being used in the video, and whether Paolo supported the proposed development of the Regent. Fair questions, I would have thought. His management then got back to me saying they knew nothing about it and had not given permission for the song to be used. I presume they then had Warner seek the removal of the clip. If they had responded that Paolo knew all about it and supported the development, I suppose that would have been a great story too (and a coup for the developers). The clip will, apparently, be re-posted with original music - and that's something I support. I disagree with the video-maker's enthusiasm for the project, but I will defend his right to have his say in an ethical manner.
- Brett Debritz

April 3:
The Views and Media pages have been updated.

April 2:
A pro-development video has been sprung for copyright infringement because it uses a musical track by Scottish singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini, who knows nothing about it. There's more here.

April 1:
In an article from thebrisbanetimes.com.au, the developers say they are redesigning their proposal for the Regent site. Presumably, this means they will include some cinemas in the plan and then resubmit it. Is this good enough? Does it really preserve the character of the last remaining grand old theatre in the heart of Brisbane?

March 29:
Cheryl Palmer has sent this message about her greatgrandfather, who was the master plasterer who helped build the Regent. It's a very heartfelt message and I urge you to read it and think about it. A grand old building like the Regent is a reminder of the people who built it, and of our collective past.

March 26:
The Save the Regent Facebook group now has 3002 members!

March 24:
The Views page has been updated (and repaired),as has the Save the Regent Facebook group.

March 23:
Just in case you think live theatre is old hat (as Premier Anna Bligh apparently does), read this story about the new BBC television show about the search for stars of a stage revival of Oliver!. Similar shows have been very popular in the UK (and the US) - and they prove that live entertainment is far from dead. Perhaps the first show at a newly restored Regent could be promoted via a similar TV program. If you'd like to see that, please sign the petition to have the theatre preserved and restored to its former glory.

March 23:
If you haven't signed the petition yet, please do so. If you're not comfortable doing it online, or you have friends who are not internet connected, details of a public signing session will be posted here soon.
If you are interested in other heritage issues, you can read about the battle to save Yungaba at Kangaroo Point, here.

March 16:
Congratulations to Campbell Newman, who has been re-elected Lord Mayor of Brisbane - especially as he is on the record as saying that he will protect the Regent. Please continue to let him know a lot of us care what happens. The Views and Links pages have been updated (email addresses for unsuccessful council candidates have been removed).

March 15:
Latest media link: Push for Regent to become live venue (Brisbane Times)

March 12:
If you are voting in this weekend's Brisbane City Council election, this might be a good time to remind the candidates that the Regent is important to you - and you expect the fight to save it to continue after the poll.

March 11:
Lance Reynolds, former Brisbane boy who was in the 1970s band Silver Studs and is now the president of Atlantic Film and Television in New York, writes:

"I had my first office in the Regent Theatre, look up at the facade and I was the windows on the right.
"The inspiration and the history of that Theatre I can never forget. I have gone on to work with everyone from Mel Gibson to Oprah Winfrey but it all started at the Regent. When I produced Paperback Hero starring Hugh Jackman, it was my request to have the world premiere at the Regent.
"Please do whatever you can to save this wonderful place."

March 10:
One "Save the Regent" group on Facebook now has 2,786 members, another has 1,285, and a new third group has 220.

March 9:
There's a thought about the development proposal on the debritz.net blog, here.

March 8:
Some very interesting news about the Regent could be released soon. Stay tuned.

March 7:
The mystery of the whereabouts of bits and pieces from the old Regent has deepened. Art deco copper flashing from the original box office is being sold-off on e-bay.com.au. Details would be greatly appreciated.

March 6:
I know a lot of people have already done so, but if you haven't and you can - i.e. you're a resident of Queensland - please sign this e-petition (even if you have signed one of the others, as this one carries specific recommendations).

March 5:
I received an anonymous email directing me to this site which sets out the developer's plans. According to the site, the proposed 38-level tower will be"a much needed catalyst for the rejuvenation of the Queen Street Mall an Elizabeth Street". It also says the foyer is the only part that is heritage-listed, and it will be retained, and that the imminent loss of the tenant "suggests the venue is no longer viable as a cinema". "Suggests" is the key word here; they obviously have done no homework on the matter, nor have they looked at the more viable suggestion of the Regent becoming a large theatre again.
The site also doesn't say:
+ That their plans will rob Brisbane of its last remaining grand theatre;
+ What the likelhood is of damage to the foyer when the tower is built;
+ Whether the retained foyer will be available for public use;
+ Whether the developers are willing to look at other options;
+ What will happen to the foyer when the tower is ultimately demolished, as it surely will be.

March 4:
One of the furphies doing the rounds (thanks, in part, to a newspaper column) is that the Regent "isn't worth saving" because the original auditorium isn't there. We all know that the big theatre was demolished in the 1970s and four cinemas built in its place. But we also know that the original can be restored, just as countless theatres around the world have been - including the Regent in Melbourne (which was rebuilt after a fire in the 1940s and saved again more recently when the government brokered a deal with the developers to reopen the theatre and build their skyscraper elsewhere) and the Regent in Palmerston North, New Zealand (where the council actually bought the property and, with public support, brought a wonderful old theatre back to life). This can happen in Brisbane, and that's what the petition is all about.
+ The Links have been fixed.

March 3:
A specific petition to State Parliament calling for the restoration of the Regent as a 1500-2000 seat theatre is here. I urge you to sign it (even if you have signed other petitions). - BD
The Views page has been updated again. Over at Facebook, the two Save the Regent groups are still growing, with 2605 and 1246 members respectively.

March 2:
Geoffrey Rush has made a second statement regarding the Regent, in response to Premier Anna Bligh's promise to save it from the current redevelopment proposal. In the statement, the Oscar-winning actor calls for a 1500-2000 seat theatre on the site. This is absolutely the way to go. Brisbane only has one such venue for big live shows - the Lyric Theatre - and it is committed for much of the year. A venue that could host an open-ended run of a big show - like Sydney's Capitol and Melbourne's Princess, Regent and His Majesty's theatres - would be a welcome addition to the city's cultural landscape and has a much better chance of being commercially viable than a clutch of small cinemas (which seems to be the premier's preference). Of course, it would have to be built as closely as possible in the style of the theatre's original auditorium, which was demolished 30 years ago.
Meanwhile, the mystery of the Regent's furniture deepens. Many people recall seeing lots of those grand old chairs in the foyer after the original theatre was converted into the current multi-cinema complex, but some people associated with the proposed development seem to be saying they disappeared 30 years ago. My informants say the chairs disappeared quite recently, and there are photos to prove they were in place not so long ago. What's going on?

March 1:
A correspondent asks: given that he's just purchased the Dendy group, might Mel Gibson be interested in buying and restoring the Regent?

Des Houghton's pro-development column in today's Courier-Mail ostensibly sets out to correct the record but has many flaws of its own.
My response to some of his points:
+ The campaign to save the Regent started not with politicians, but with people power on the Internet, first with two Facebook groups started independently on the same day. More than 3500 people have now joined these sites, and/or logged on to the website savetheregent.com. Others are taking up the fight in more "conventional" ways.
+ Yes, the original auditorium of the Regent was destroyed 30 years ago, but that doesn't mean it can't be restored now. The example of the Regent in Melbourne makes a compelling case for the commercial viability of such a restoration.
+ "Sad commercial realty" is one thing; preserving and restoring our cultural heritage is another.
+ There is no reason why a deal cannot be brokered to allow John Wardle Architects' wonderful office tower to be built elsewhere.
- BD
February 27:
Bille Brown - the "boy from Biloela" who worked with the Queensland Theatre Company before embarking on an international theatre and film career, and is now starring as King Arthur in Spamalot in Melbourne - has submitted his views on why we should save the Brisbane Regent. Follow this link.
Meanwhile, a correspondent has sent an email recalling an exciting episode in the Regent's history. It's here.

February 26:
There's an e-petition to State Parliament which you can sign at the Government website. I also understand another, more specific petition will be posted soon. (Update: it has and it is here.)
Thanks to Rebecca, who pointed out that the Melbourne Regent and the Plaza Ballroom were restored in a deal that allowed the developer to build a hotel on another site nearby. As I was getting at here, the state government and council should look at a similar deal to see the Brisbane Regent restored as a theatre, and allow the developers to build their office tower somewhere else. This would be a win-win situation: a new tower block provides more office space for the city, and the theatre is retained and restored. I'm told the details are at Wikipedia.
The Regent isn't the only icon under threat. So, too, is Yungaba. Details here.

February 24:
I thought I'd be writing a big thank-you note to Anna Bligh today. Instead, I've written this. - BD

Here's the audio from Spencer Howson's 612ABC breakfast show this morning, with Premier Anna Bligh announcing her intentions, and a disappointed Brett Debritz responding:

(Requires Apple Quicktime plug-in; may take a few minutes to load).

Anna Bligh has said she favours keeping "one or two" cinemas in the Regent, and then allowing the tower block to go ahead above it. She should know that in this age of huge suburban multiplexes, a small number of cinemas in the city are not commercially viable. The experience in Melbourne, and many other places in the world, shows that a larger live theatre venue - one that could also host "event" cinema and concerts - could be viable. It would also bring a well-behaved crowd of all ages into the centre of the city, revitalising it.
If you want to make your feeling known directly to the building's owners and developers, I have been told that these two email addresses will be useful: contact@ispt.net.au (owner) and media@multiplex.biz (developer).

Update: Don't pop the champagne corks yet. If her interview with Spencer Howson on 612ABC this morning is any indication, Premier Anna Bligh has really committed to nothing when it comes to saving the Regent as we know it. From the way I hear it, she still wants the 38-storey tower block to go ahead albeit with some small commitment to having a cinema or two in the mix. Two points: even the developers say building the tower may damage the structure; and what happens when the tower block has outlived its usefulness? You don't save something by building over the top of it. If Premier Bligh wants more tower blocks in the city, she should help the developers find a different site. What she has done smells like a stunt. - BD

Thanks to the proposed intervention by Premier Bligh, it seems the Regent is safe for now, but we must keep up the pressure on all levels of government to make sure this is just not a tactic to take some heat out of the council elections. There are also questions about how the government can require a private company to continue using the site as a cinema. Still, I think the thousands of people who have responded so quickly and so vocally to this campaign - and the small number of people who have coordinated it on the ground and on the Net - should pat themselves on the back for achieving this response. I thank you all. February 24 update:

Anna Bligh has said she will save the Regent! There's a story on the Courier-Mail website. More soon. [Ed's note: this turned out to be a little premature.

February 23:
The Media page has been updated - including one link to a story where a man identified as an historian says the Regent is "not worth saving" because the original auditorium is no longer there. I guess we'd better knock down the rest of the Colosseum in Rome then, too, because a big chunk of it is missing. - BD
On the Views page, there's now a message of support from a Geoffrey Rush fan in Prague.

February 22:
The Views page has, yet again, been updated. Combined membership of the two Save the Regent Facebook groups is now more than 2900!
Saving the Regent isn't just an exercise in nostalgia for the old. Claire Hamilton, 27, emailed these moving thoughts.

February 24:
Academy Award-winning Brisbane-bred actor Geoffrey Rush has sent a strong message of support for the campaign. Stories here and here.

February 20:
The question has been asked: what do we want to achieve with this campaign? My thoughts are that the Regent should be restored as nearly as possible to its original design - incorporating the original fittings and replicas. Obviously this would be an expensive option but, if the experience of Sydney and Melbourne is any guide, such a venue would be viable. Melbourne has three old theatres - the Regent (which was restored after being empty for 25 years), the Princess and His Majesty's - as well as a modern arts centre and many smaller venues. Brisbane surely can sustain one old theatre. What do others think? Email me with your suggestions.
+ The Views page has, again, been updated, as has the Media page. As this page is starting to get a little long, older News content has been archived here.
+The Save the Regent Facebook groups now have a combined membership of more than 2500.

February 19:
Does anybody know the whereabouts of the original fittings from the old Regent that were not used to create the Showcase cinema? Apparently, the fittings and furniture were stored somewhere by the building's previous owner, the Mayne Estate. It's also been suggested that there are fewer old chairs in the lobby now than just a few years ago. If so, where have they gone? If you have answers, please email me.
+The Views pages has been updated. Keep them coming!

February 18:
This site has undergone several improvements to the Media, Views and Links page - and there's a page of Regent pictures (past and present), here.
Somebody has also launched a Save the Regent group on MySpace here.

February 17:
Between them, the two Facebook groups now have 2000 members. Even allowing for some duplication, that's a fantastic result in less than a week!
I've had no direct replies yet from the politicians, but Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg has been in email contact with other people working on this campaign, which is a very positive sign.
I have also received many more messages of support, edited highlights of which will go on to the Views page tonight.
I have sent an email to major political figures and candidates posing the following question. Their responses, if any, will be published on this site:
"Do you support the current proposal to redevelop Brisbane's Regent theatre into a tower block? If yes, why. If no, why not - and what do you suggest should be done with the Regent?"
- Brett Debritz
+ A Media page has been created to track coverage of this issue. Contributions welcome.

February 15-17:
Many people are fighting to save this historic building in Brisbane's Queen St Mall. The purpose of this website is to be a central point of information, updates and "calls to action".
If you want to do your bit, leave a comment for publication on the "Views" page by emailing debritz(at)hotmail.com, or join one or both of the "Save the Regent" groups on Facebook.com.
It's also a good idea to send emails and letters to your councillors and council candidates. With an election coming up, they should be very receptive. The more people who make contact in this way, the more likely it is that something is done.
What's at stake here is not just one building but the already-depleted cultural and architectural heritage of Brisbane. The BelleVue, Cloudland, Her Majesty's, the Wintergarden, the Metro, the Paris, the Suncorp Theatre and Festival Hall are already gone, don't let the Regent follow them!

PS: If you want to know what this website is all about, please visit the About page.

- Brett Debritz