16 March 2014

The finest theatre in Taumarunui

Regent Theatre detail, Taumarunui, 16.03.14

According to its website, the Regent Theatre in Taumarunui was opened for business in 1935. Built for the Imperial Picture Company, it has 340 seats in its auditorium, which reminds us of the far-reaching influence of cinema in the pre-TV days. The Regent could hold more than a tenth of the total population of the town - which was about 3000 when it opened. Papers Past lacks any news of what must have been a grand opening ceremony, but doubtless it was a big night for the country town on the main trunk line.

The only news reported for 1935 regarding the theatre building was the cowardly June robbery of the female proprietor of the Regent gown shop in the same building, Mrs Hanks. According to the Auckland Star of 1 July 1935 she was assaulted in a dark alley and robbed of the hefty sum of £11 after the shop had closed on a Friday night. The Star carried no further news of the robbery in 1935 or '36.

The Regent does not appear to be in regular use - perhaps it just operates over the summer months. The Imperial Picture Company, despite its grand name, was solely based in Taumarunui. Incorporated in 1913, it survived until 1988. A year after the Regent Theatre was founded, another noteworthy event occurred - the birth in the town of Trevor Rupe on 10 October 1936. Rupe later attained fame in New Zealand and Australia as the drag performer Carmen.

See also:
NZ: Old New Plymouth, 9 February 2014
NZ: The great fire of Raetihi, 11 January 2012
NZ: Hokitika Town, 4 October 2011
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