Regent Theatre

A Grade II listed former cine-variety theatre with a classical façade and richly decorative auditorium. Despite changing use over the years, the theatre remains remarkably intact and unusually well-preserved.

Auditorium of Regent Theatre Great Yarmouth
85-87 Regent Road, Great Yarmouth, NR30 2AH
Risk Rating
4 (Community Rating: 1, Star Value: 2, Risk Factor: 2)
Francis Burdett Ward
Date of Construction
Grade II


The Regent was designed for both cinema and theatre and opened on Boxing Day 1914. It was taken over by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) in 1929 and remained in cinema use until the 1980s when it was converted to bingo use. More recently it has been in use as a nightclub, which also saw the return of some live performance and events.

Architecturally it is an impressive building with a fine classical façade articulated by a pair of giant columns with iconic capitals on either side of the main entrance and a central Diocletian window (a large semi-circular window divided into three sections by two vertical mullions) rising above. A frieze of artificial stone depicts images of comedy, tragedy, owls, baskets of fruit, lyres and other theatrical objects.

The original plan included a tearoom to the left of the main entrance with ornately plastered ceiling and timber panelling; and a crush room to the right, which has since been converted to an amusement arcade.

Internally, the splendid highly-decorative Rococo-style auditorium remains remarkably intact, with alterations for bingo use in the 1980s made sensitively without compromising the possibility of future theatre use. While stalls seating has been removed the architectural features remain, including the four boldly projecting bow-fronted boxes supported on single slender columns to either side of a now boxed-in proscenium and the profusion of original decorative plasterwork adorning walls, ceiling, balcony, and box fronts. The stage house also remains intact. Originally with a capacity of 1,679, the theatre saw extensive live performance use; its 9m (30ft) stage supported by four dressing rooms. The theatre is a magnificent surviving example of its type.

Why is this theatre at risk?

The Regent was added to the Theatres at Risk Register in 2022.

The building has been vacant since the bar and nightclub closed in 2016. With prolonged vacancy, there is a risk of damage and deterioration. Sadly, this has been borne out by recent images we have seen of damage to the auditorium plasterwork, believed due to water ingress. We have alerted the local authority and attempted to contact the owner to ensure that the building is inspected and that any necessary repair work is undertaken. We await a response but fear that more damage may occur in the meantime.

Theatre potential

The Regent is well located within Great Yarmouth’s town centre, between the seafront and its core shopping area. The building is believed to be substantially complete and could easily be reverted  to theatre and live performance use. There could also be an opportunity for sensitive alternative use that retains the volume and significance of its auditorium and would not preclude the building from returning to theatre use should there be future demand.

Current situation

The building has been vacant since 2016. The current intentions of its owner are unknown.

Following the Regent’s inclusion on the Theatres at Risk Register, Theatres Trust has been contacted by several groups all with a focus on community and cultural ambitions and keen to see whether there may be opportunity for using the building. Sadly, attempts to contact the owner (believed to be a church group) to discuss opportunities and find a positive solution for the building have been unsuccessful.

In September 2022, Theatres Trust was contacted by members of the community concerned about the condition of the building and forwarding images of fallen plaster in the auditorium. The Victorian Society was also contacted and we have both forwarded the information to the local authority to request that it investigates the matter further. Theatres Trust is still awaiting a response.

Theatres Trust will continue to try to contact the owner and to work with them, the council, and other key stakeholders to find a viable and sympathetic reuse for this important historic theatre that preserves its historic significance and splendid architecture.

Main image, Regent Theatre Great Yarmouth by Ian Grundy.