News | Regent Christchurch

History & Museum

History & Museum

26 September 2023

Regent Cinema Museum

The museum, which opened in 2017, is in the projection room and despite the limited space, has a comprehensive collection of vintage cinema artefacts, amongst which are two fully working 35 mm projectors, one an exhibit, the other in use alongside the Barco digital projector, a side lantern, an automaticket machine, rewinders, seats, speakers, a cabinet containing a wide range of smaller exhibits and a selection of posters and photographs of local cinemas that have long since succumbed to the wrecker's ball. As of the Regent’s AGM in 2022 the museum has made a part of the Regent mission statement and maintaining it one of its charitable objectives.

Tours of The Regent

The only way for the public to visit the museum is on our building tours. This is due the inaccessibility and location of the museum up the projection box stairs.

Tour Tickets

History of the Regent

The cinema opened in 1931 and was built for local solicitor Thomas J Rowley. It was not unusual at the time to build cinemas as a speculative venture. Firstly, it provided employment for local people and secondly it could hopefully be sold on at a profit, to a cinema chain once completed. Rowley was also responsible for the construction of the Talbot and Victoria shopping parades in Winton, Bournemouth. The Victoria Parade incorporated the Victoria cinema later renamed the Ritz.

The Regent seated around 700 patrons in circle and stalls and competed directly with the incumbent Pavilion cinema in Bargates which had belated plans to take over the Regent instead. The Pavilion is another survivor formally known as The British Legion Club.

By the mid 1930's Portsmouth Town Cinemas were the operators. That company also ran the Ritz and the Moderne in Winton. It was operated by Shipman and King cinemas for a very short time in the late 1960's and they did carry out some much needed refurbishment before they were taken over by the Grade organisation and ultimately subsumed into EMI, the music and entertainment conglomerate.

It was closed in 1973 by the then owners Thorm/EMI Screen Entertainment, who by then owned the ABC circuit. The last film show consisted of a double bill namely The Thief Who Came to Dinner' starring Ryan O'Neill plus John Wayne and Ann Margret in The Train Robbers.

At this stage in the life of a cinema it would have been demolished, but once again the insatiable demand for bingo saved the day and the Regent became a Mecca Bingo and Social Club for a further nine years until 1982.


Mecca had a reputation for looking after their buildings but had a policy of painting the interiors in a combination of mauve, pink and dark green! Which was the colour scheme inherited by Christchurch Borough Council when they took over the building soon after Mecca vacated the premises.

As the owners of an empty building, the Council were persuaded by a group of would-be volunteers that it would be a good idea to use the venue for the public good. Thus, it was that in 1983 and from small beginnings, the Regent went from strength to strength until today with its varied programming of films, live shows and broadcasts, it has become an important and very popular venue for the local community.