The Regent Theatre takes pride of place in the sunny lower half of Dunedin’s central Octagon reserve. The theatre regularly hosts live theatre, music, graduations and prizegivings, opera, dance, film, project launches, conferences, circus, festivals and community events.
The complex consists of three buildings – the original Ross building (1876), the theatre auditorium (1928) and the fly tower, stage and dressing rooms (1980-81). The maintenance of the theatre has remained true to its historical roots, and it is the only large live theatre venue with a proscenium arch in the Otago area. In 1987, the Regent Theatre was registered as a Category 1 Historic Building. Behind the façade in the Octagon is the original auditorium with one of the largest audience capacities of any theatre in New Zealand, and, as it is fan shaped, all seats provide a good view.
The Regent’s stage was the largest in New Zealand until the Aotea Centre opened in Auckland. The stage and everything else behind the proscenium arch were added after the Trust took over the facilities. All the plasterwork was done locally and moulds kept for replacement work. The Dress Circle appears to be supported by only two pillars. The original design required no pillars but people felt unsafe without them as the Circle moves noticeably at times (if it didn’t, it actually would collapse) meaning the pillars are largely aesthetic. The theatre originally seated 1830 people. However, following a complete seating refurbishment to allow more leg room for patrons and space for wheelchairs, we now have 1617 seats.