The Regent Theatre
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The inspiration to open the Regent Theatre was conceived in 1904 in a leased storeroom of the Fisher Building that stood on the corner of Limestone Street and Main Street. It was in this space that Gus Sun, the prolific theater operator and booking agent, would open his first theater, the Orpheum, bringing the first vaudeville shows and moving pictures to Springfield. During that time, Sun made up his mind that he would build a grand theater for Springfield.
Long before the construction of the Regent Theatre, a small rivulet that flows into Buck Creek called Mill Run ran through this area. A starch factory with the largest overshot water wheel in Springfield was located on this site. In 1877, an arch was constructed, moving Mill Run underground and allowing for construction above the flowing rivulet. In 1881, the Grand opera house was constructed on this site, which was later renamed the Columbia Theater. Tragedy struck on September 27, 1917 when the North and South walls of the theater collapsed, bringing down the roof on top of workers that were remodeling the theater. Five workers were killed and several others injured as a result of the collapse.
Gus Sun began construction on the Regent Theatre in the summer of 1919 and it was completed the following summer, coming at an estimated cost of $300,000. The Regent Theatre was designed by prominent Detroit architect, Charles Howard Crane, who specialized in the design of movie palaces. Careful thought was put into the design of the Regent and it was conceded to be one of the most beautiful theaters in the state of Ohio. Sun’s policy for the Regent was that only best, highest quality pictures would be shown there. The stage was built large enough for live performances in addition to motion pictures. On the spacious 2nd floor were the offices of The Gus Sun Booking Exchange and the Gus Sun Amusement Company.
The Regent’s grand opening was held on Monday, August 16th, 1920. The opening night featured the silent film, “Yes or No,” starring, Norma Talmadge with over 2,000 people in attendance. Sun hired young females to be ushers in his new theater at a time when men customarily filled this role. Judge James C. Johnson of the Ohio Supreme court delivered the address before the entertainment began.
In October of 1928, just 8 years after opening, the Regent Theatre was sold to the Chakeres Amusement Company. The Regent’s final vaudeville performance was on April 28, 1929. On May 12 of the same year, the Regent had its first Vitaphone sound film. The Chakeres family continued operation of the Regent Theatre and when remodeling converted the balcony area to a separate screen, it became the Regent Twin Cinemas.
The Regent became the last downtown movie theater in late 1990 when the State Cinema on Fountain Avenue closed. On January 30th, 1992, the Regent was closed down permanently after a 10PM showing of the movie, “Juice” and has stood vacant since.
Narrated by Larry Coressel of Springfield Stage Works
- Columbia Building collapse results in many injuries. (1917, September 27). The Springfield Daily News.
- Judge Johnson to deliver address at opening of new Regent Theatre Monday. (1925, July 25). Springfield Sunday News.
- New theatre opened; Gus Sun, owner, is highly complimented. (1920, August 15). Springfield Sunday News.
- Scrapbook recalls glory of age of stage. (1973, February 4). Springfield News Sun
- Regent officially closed. (1992, February 1). Springfield News Sun.
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