The Regent Cinema, considered as one of Redcar’s staple attractions, has continued its major refurbishment to improve the viewing experience for local film lovers.
The cinema, located on the seafront in Newcomen Terrace, is unique for being one of the only independent picture houses left in the country.
In 2014, over four thousand online users signed the ‘Save the Regent Cinema’ petition after it was feared it might shut down and be replaced with a new leisure multiplex.
The high level of public affection shown for The Regent was instrumental in launching the refurbishment.
Neil Bates, owner of the Regent Cinema, said: “None of this would have been possible if we didn’t have the public support.”
“I think people have been so supportive because the cinema provides a cheap and affordable venue to watch films.
“Redcar as a town has also lost so much over the last few years, there is only a few vanguards of nostalgia that are still around and I think locals connect with the cinema as they associate it with Redcar’s identity and historic past.”
The cinema refurbishment launched in early 2015 consisted of major improvements to make the building visually appealing and included fixing the old roof and a new outdoor sign.
One of the most recent changes in 2016 was updating the lower floor seating area by bringing in new red seats to replace the ones that had been there since the 1950s.
Neil said the seating updates were needed due to the changing times of society and technology.
He said: “You need to move with the times. You’re now competing with the internet and other platforms like Netflix. We didn’t want to recover or salvage the cinema. We just really wanted to move forward with the new options that were available.”
“Even though it means the seat capacity has dropped slightly, we are now offering a much more comfortable experience when it comes to sitting and enjoying the feature.”
There are future hopes for the upper seating level to be updated, although this is not expected to happen within the next 24 months.
The ongoing upgrades have been credited for producing increased audience figures and success to the cinema.
Neil said: “It’s one thing to get people coming in, but you’ve got to keep them coming back by making it the cinema of their choice. The only way to do that is continuing to expand on what you are offering and I really feel that the latest updates have achieved that.”
The Regent was founded as the New Pavilion building in 1928 over the entrance of the former Coatham Pier where it found success as a music hall and repertory theatre.
After declining interest, the building closed down for a long period until it was resurrected as a cinema by the Cleveland Cinema Co-operative for ten years but eventually closed due to competition from other multiplexes.
Eventually, The Regent was revived in 1990 by Neil, who had previously been a volunteer at the establishment.
The cinema also gained attention in 2007 when it was pivotal filming location for several scenes in the award-winning film, Atonement starring James McAvoy and Keira Knightley.
While it has not been easy to maintain the small one-screen building, Neil admits that he still loves the job after nearly three decades and has no plans of stopping any time soon.
He said: “I have a vision of what I want to see for the Regent and for Redcar, I just don’t want to give up until something stops me and I can no longer proceed or we achieve the goal of where we want to be.”