Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My World Tuesday - "Monarch of Main Street"

The Regent Theatre in downtown Picton has been entertaining the folks of Prince Edward County since 1918. It's days of presenting vaudeville and silent movies are long gone, but live theatrical and musical events still flourish on its stage.
Circa 1922 (Prov. of Ontario Archives)
Owned by George and Ellen Cook, The Regent Theatre first opened in 1918 in a building dating back to the 1830s. Designed by Toronto architect Warrington and Page, the theatre is a rare example of an Edwardian opera house, and it's stage is equal in size to that of The Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto. Above the stage is a 21 metre (70 foot) fly tower. The original dressing room includes blackboards lining the walls where, in a former era, performers wrote their show's running order.

The Cook's managed the The Regent until George's death in 1959. In 1962 Ellen Cook decided to lease out the operation while retaining ownership of the building. She remodelled it before handing it over to the new tenants and was very pleased that....“it gives two young men a chance to try their hand at show business, and earn a living at something they feel they are fitted for”.

Interior view from back - circa 1922 (Prov. of Ontario Archives)


In 1964 their youngest daughter Louise Cook took over the operation of the theatre. With the advent of television in the 1950s, the theatre came upon hard times. The number of seats went from 1000 (these photos) to about 500 and when the present seats were installed, the number was further reduced to 353. The balcony and orchestra pit were removed and the Regent became primarily a movie theatre.

Circa 1922 - View from the stage (Prov. of Ontario Archives) Main Street, Picton, Ontario - Circa 1934 (Prov. of Ontario Archives) Circa 1947 (Prov. of Ontario Archives) 2009
Not much has changed!

In 1994 Lousie Cook sold the theatre to The Regent Theatre Foundation, a year later an anonymous donor paid off the $300,000 mortgage!
The theatre is unique in Ontario for being both a movie house, showing first-run movies, and a facility for stage productions. Shows like Wingfield On Ice, CBC's Vinyl Cafe with Stuart MacLean, a first class Jazz Festival, and film festivals along with great live performances such as
Murray McLauchlan have made the "Monarch of Main Street" the success she is at 90!

Murray MacLauchlan will kick off Maple in the County this weekend
with a performance on Friday evening.....I'm going!
To learn about more great places around the world go to

20 comments:

CoyoteFe said...

Egad! I am so far behind on your travels! Love the historic trip, especially with an old theater. So much better to be restored than to be left to rot. Good for the foundation!

Jenn said...

That theater looks almost like it was in the olden days. Thanks for the history. You have a lovely town. Thanks for sharing!

Powell River Books said...

The Regent Theatre makes me think of the Patricia Theatre here in Powell River. It was founded in 1913 soon after the Powell River Mill started the company town. The building it now occupies was built in 1928 as a silent movie house. It has been in continuous operation since 1913 and still serves the town as it's only movie theatre, making it the oldest BC theatre in operation. You can read more at their website http://www.patriciatheatre.com/history.htm -- Margy

Marites said...

That's impressive theatre with old pictures too boot. I sure it will last longer and have more shows to be seen.

Arija said...

A live theater is a great facility in any town. It is just a pity that television isolates people and drawas then away from the socisl occation of live theatre.
A beautiful old theatre.

Ruth said...

It is nice that this building has been so well preserved. So many small towns have lost their downtown character. Enjoy the show...
(I love the Vinyl Cafe!)

fishing guy said...

Carolyn: what a fun post and it is neat to look back in time to see what has occured.

Nessa said...

Love the old photos. A it's nice to see old theaters maintained.

Your EG Tour Guide said...

Picton is fortunate to have such a theatre. I guess with fewer seats it's probably more comfortable seating than it once was...or maybe not.

The Vinyl Cafe? How cool!

Janie said...

It's interesting to see the old theatre throughout the years. Nice photos and history.

Gaelyn said...

This theater is amazing, so glad it's been kept alive. Such great documentation through its history. The archived images may someday allow a complete renovation to a former time.

Great post, thanks so much.

Deborah Godin said...

Great photos and history! That's one of the best things about smaller towns - they (at least many do) know how to preserve the heritage and not get filled with concrete and glass.

Lindab said...

Fascinating history. How lovely to see that the theatre is keeping up with the times but also keeping its identity.

Sylvia K said...

What a great story of one theater and what a great history! I say good for the foundation, too. Really enjoyed this look at "your world"! Thanks for your visit to my blog and your comments.

SandyCarlson said...

That is one neat old place. Thanks for the interior shots with the excellent exterior shots.

Living in Williamsburg, Virginia said...

What a neat old, historic theater. It reminds us of the one in our home town in Pennsylvania that was saved from oblivion and restored. It now shows old movies and live performances. We are appreciating historic conservation even more now that we are in Colonial Williamsburg. Thanks for sharing these great photos.

Darryl & Ruth

Dianne said...

how lovely and comforting that not much has changed
wonderful photos

thank you for your visit and your kind comment

CoyoteFe said...

Car'Olyn!
Thanks for dropping by! I am glad that you prioritize the outer spring over the inner one. How else will we reinvigorate our own personal season? Enjoy the show - that would be both the outer one and the Friday theater one. Down here, we are still in the grip of the Pennsylvania Haunted Forest, but we KNOW spring is just at arms length!

Tammie Lee said...

The history of a place that has added richness to life, wonderful.

Louise said...

I love it with 1000 seats in it. How I would have loved to go to a performance in its heyday!

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