The Regal Theatre has been entertaining the people of Stowmarket since as early as 1936 after travelling cinema shows were outlawed 30 years before due to health and safety concerns.
Experiencing a dip in interest in the ’60s, coming so close to becoming a carpet warehouse (imagine what we’d have done without this beloved theatre!), the Regal was bought by Stowmarket Town Council, who invested in the theatre by building a stage, dressing room, a bar and, more recently, digital projection, toilet blocks, and disabled access.
Now, the dearly loved theatre has been undergoing an even bigger upgrade, with funding from the Stowmarket Town Council and Mid Suffolk District Council. The £3.6 million project will revamp the theatre, with new seats, projection equipment and screens amongst many other changes such as their website.
Although the theatre experienced some difficulties with the refurbishment during the first lockdown, due to many shipments of materials and gear being delayed, the theatre kept it’s head high and continued to work through it.
One of the ways The Regal Theatre did this was by starting ‘Regal on the Road’ where the theatre would screen films at The John Peel Centre. This managed to run right up to Christmas Eve with a sold-out show on their last night.
David Marsh, events and theatre manager for Stowmarket Town Council, was taken aback by the response the theatre received during this time:
“Despite it all, we were amazed with the amount of customers we had, we spent a lot of time on our safety measures and we found that things that we’d usually get reviewed on, like the picture and sound quality, were not being talked about as much as the way we prioritised our customer safety. We were so glad to hear and read that people felt safe with us and we’ll definitely be keeping up those measures when we hopefully reopen in a few months time.”
The Regal Theatre has now incorporated new safety measures for when they reopen, with a one-way system, Plexiglass over the counters, and large gaps between screenings. They also revamped their entire box office software so that it automatically puts a two-seat gap in between customers.
David said: “It was what we needed to do and I’m glad we did it and that people felt safe with us. It was lovely to see all the families come in, all excited about Christmas and we ended up being sold out on our last show, so we’re very happy.”
Alongside all these changes, David’s team has been streaming events, such as the Stowmarket Remembrance Day event during the second lockdown, which was streamed to YouTube, so that people can still experience everything Stowmarket has to offer from the comfort and safety of their home
David and his team are looking forward to reopening the doors to the beloved theatre and hope that people come back with plenty of excitement.
“In a post-lockdown world I think people are going to want the theatre more than ever, TV and streaming platforms like Netflix are great but they only go so far. With the theatre, you get the experience of actually going out and meeting people and seeing a show on the big screen or on stage. I do hope that people come back and that they like everything that we’ve done safeguarding wise.
“I just want to say thank you to the people who have shown us so much support throughout the years. People have had to put their trust in us and the fact that they have has just given us so much faith so I just wanted to thank everyone that continues to support us through all this. We just can’t wait to welcome everyone back and the show must go on again!”
To keep up-to-date with everything The Regal Theatre does, be sure to head to their website www.regalstowmarket.co.uk and give them a like on Facebook @regaltheatrestowmarket