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History of the Regent Theatre: 1992

By Allan Webb Prev | Next

The Christmas New Year run was not strong due to poor films and repeats although February was good mainly due to The Addams Family which was not really as strong as it should have been because it was a Christmas release.

Then it happened.

In May, 1992, our fabulous run came to an end. Village opened their 5-cinema complex in Hamilton and once again our product situation deteriorated.

The age of the multiplex cinemas had hit us and things would never be the same again. We were no match for the novelty of such a place of entertainment surrounded by all the various eating houses, a wide range of film titles and a great selection of sessions screening all day long, everyday.

I decided to continue my policy of ignoring their procedure and look after our best interests by catering for the audience we could get. We certainly couldn't offer the same degree of novelty or choice so it was senseless even to try. Business dropped away again.

The other centres were increasing the number of screens to eight and new complexes had the same number of screens. Hamilton was concluding films earlier than the other city situations, leaving an audience that had not seen the films while they were on at Hamilton and quite a few people would travel over to us. Our locals deserted us for the novelty of Hamilton and its new theatre complex.

Our showcase programs of specialised product had a loyal audience and were becoming quite popular. We would group eight of the best alternative films available and screen them at selected times over an eight week period.

Eventually, Village added 2 new screens to become Village 7 and held films on longer. The novelty of further screens did not seem to affect us too much, but the longer runs of films and further selection of titles and sessions did. They did not show any of the specialized films that we had in our Showcase or if they did, people tended to stay away from them. This has been the experience in most multiplexes in that alternative product does not work very well. The discriminating audience of the period did not like complexes which had a reputation for catering to large, younger audiences. This is still the case and that is why some smaller cinemas have been erected to cater for the alternative audience where they are segregated from the general populace.

People still came to us for the more commercial art films but that was not to remain so. Village opened a three-plex and called it Showcase and showed films specifically for the art house crowd. This was not successful and a mix of commercial and art films was eventually chosen as the best policy. However this was the death knell of our established Showcase. People could see the films much earlier in Hamilton and had numerous sessions to choose from. They even had discount rates for pensioners that we could not match. Eventually Village Showcase was to become a Rialto Theatre and programming was to be more art than ordinary run-of-the-mill releases. This also was not very successful and by the turn of the century they were programming Village 7 and the Rialto as a ten-screen operation with the Rialto leaning more to the older and more sophisticated audience.

In May, 1992, there was a big Disney release called Hook which was to become one of the opening films for Village 5. I pleaded with the film company to let me screen this film with the opening of the rest of New Zealand as Village 5 had not yet opened. Finally, they agreed for us to have it and we got 579 people for the week before the school holidays. This was really to be the last first release film that we would get for some months.

Apart from school holiday periods which were down on some of the more recent ones, business was gradually declining to what could be described as the 'video boom' period when our admissions went down to as low as 146 in a week for a period of two months. For one and a half weeks at this time, I ran the whole theatre by myself without any staff at all. People just stopped coming. At about the period when business was so low, I put my name down with an agency to try to get another job, I applied for a few positions but employment was hard to find and I was not accepted for anything.

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