Subiaco’s Regal Theatre marks 85 years of entertaining West Australians
Subiaco’s iconic Regal Theatre is celebrating 85 years of entertainment this week with three generations of women working to keep the magic alive.
The blush pink Art Deco building has stood tall on the corner of Hay Street and Rokeby Road since it opened as a hardtop cinema in 1938 and became a cornerstone of the Perth arts scene.
The theatre has been a second home to Kim Knight and her family for the past 47 years after her father, Stan Bird, and his business partner John Thornton took over from Paddy Baker in 1976.
When he died, Mr Baker left the theatre to the WA people through the Regal Theatre Foundation.
Ms Knight’s first memory of working at the theatre was as an 8-year-old racing her brother to stamp dates on thousands of physical tickets to earn their pocket money.
As a teen, she worked as an usher and would sit at the back of the theatre watching shows repeatedly until she could mouth along to the words.
She took over as general manager after her parents, Stan and Barbara, retired 13 years ago, with her daughter Billi helping in front of house.
Some world-famous performers have graced the Regal’s stage, from Beatles frontman Sir Paul McCartney to Monty Python legend John Cleese.
But possibly its biggest fan was Australia’s great dame Barry Humphries, who in 2013 said he had a special affinity for the Regal over his nearly 60 years on the stage.
“He loved the theatre; I couldn’t even count how many shows he did here,” Ms Knight said.
“He was a regular and loved performing here; his shows were always amazing and very popular.
“He was very hands-on, so he would always be around the theatre, and he liked to check on us all and check how the sales were going.”
Ms Knight said she also had fond memories of Scottish comedian Sir Billy Connolly, who she used to babysit for as a teen while he or his wife Pamela were performing.
“My dad would take me to the hotel and drop me off to look after their two girls, and then they would come here to do the show, and they were just lovely,” she said.
“Billy Connolly rocked up and surprised my dad at his 60th at our house.
“He did a lot of shows here which was great; when one show went on sale, there was a queue from the box office all the way down to the train station for people waiting to buy tickets.”
After overcoming the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms Knight said the theatre was steadily returning to its former glory. She hoped to see diverse international acts from all genres return to the stage.
“I feel like it’s very much bred in me, and I feel really blessed to have been allowed to be running such a beautiful theatre and being able to put on entertainment for people that brings so much joy,” she said.
“I think the Regal has always been a theatre that people from all walks of life feel comfortable coming to.
“We pride ourselves on being a theatre for the people and that everyone feels comfortable and welcome here.”
The Regal Theatre will hold an open house on Thursday, April 27, from 5.30pm to 7.30pm to celebrate the milestone.