Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Opening of the Regent Theater


The Regent theater was located on the north side of Western Avenue, between First & Second St.
Even after the larger and much more ornate Michigan theater was built, the Regent theater reportedly remained the favorite of local impresario Paul Schlossman. Perhaps proof of that is the fact he kept his business office upstairs in the Regent building until his death in 1950.
When the Regent opened in January of 1916, it was geared more toward stage productions rather than motion pictures, Movies, of course, were still in their infancy at that time. The building was constructed at the cost of $75,000 and featured a 66 foot wide stage, a deep orchestra pit and three boxes on either side of the stage (each accommodating 6 people in wicker furniture). The theater’s total seating capacity was about 1000.
According to the description in the Chronicle the balcony was especially note- worthy. “The balcony is one of the greatest features of the entire house. It is wide and spacious and is supported by a 15 ton steel beam. Every seat in the balcony commands a clear view of the stage.”
Safety was also stressed, The public was probably still mindful of Chicago’s Iroquois theater fire (in which hundreds died) a decade earlier, and so needed to be reassured. “The stage is equipped with a modern sprinkling system, automatic fire doors and is absolutely fireproof. Twelve individual exits from both the balcony and first floor, all leading directly to the outside of the building, make it one of the safest playhouses in the state.” It was also noted that the huge stage curtain was made of asbestos.
The interior d├ęcor was handled by Mandel Brothers of Chicago, and featured murals of “old rose, old ivory and gold.”
For the grand opening Schlossman had booked the dramatic comedy play “The Rejuvenation of Aunt Mary,” which was just coming off a record run in Chicago. It featured British comedienne May Robson. Also on the billing were five vaudeville acts and several reels of film (all short features).
For a coming attraction, Schlossman promised the musical comedy “Hi Jinks,” which had achieved great success in New York.
Said Paul Schlossman at the theater’s opening, “We have tried to provide the very best for Muskegon, and with the opening of the new Regent I feel we have accomplished that aim.”
The Regent would go on to host a long list of entertainment stars, including the debut of Spencer Tracy. The first local showing of “Gone With the Wind,” took place in the Regent. Sadly, the building was knocked down in 1972, to make way for the new Muskegon Mall.

1 comment:

blauria said...

My Great Grandparents were from Muskegon and I have recently run across photo's of my Great Grandfather performing in several plays. There is no further information written on the photos and they are in rough shape. I am trying to verify that the photos were taken at the Regent. If anyone could help please let me know, or if someone who is interested in seeing the photos please contact me, they are very interesting, bethwellman@sbcglobal.net