When we moved to Evesham almost fifteen years ago one of the joys was being able to walk to the cinema. In those days The Regal was a tired old lady, her former glory just a memory. From being an Art Deco jewel nestled in the heart of the town, she had become tired, her makeup was cracked and peeling, shabby was too kind a word. Despite all that, there were glimpses of former glory, and there was that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that lingers around true beauty, however faded. Sadly, not long after our arrival the owners gave up the struggle and The Regal closed.
The years were not kind to her, vandalism, holes in the roof and more all took their toll. Despite mutterings over various alcoholic beverages we resigned ourselves to the trip to Worcester or Cheltenham to see a movie – which meant we didn’t go so often (cue sad music…). Then came a glimmer of hope on the horizon, faded, flickered out, then another – same result but eventually brave souls with a vision arrived, Ian and Laurence Wiper took on the task of reviving the career of the faded star.
I cannot begin to imagine the amount of work that it has taken over the last three years or so but with the help of some grants and a committed team of volunteers the newly refurbished Regal opened her doors a couple of weeks ago.
We couldn’t make the opening night and I have to admit to some trepidation when we went for the first time – would all those little quirky things that made The Regal so unique still be there? The plans had promised much, Coffee Shop, Bars, comfortable seats, even toilets that worked! My main concern from an aesthetic point of view was the light fittings – silly I know, most people would have been more interested in the quality of the screen and sound. I loved the light fittings in the old Regal – elegant, stylish and beautiful. I almost cried when I saw them restored to perfection throwing a soft and gentle light over a scene that would have gladdened the heart of any movie lover.
From the outside, The Regal is classically simple, the sensitive restoration has given a new focus to a neglected part of town. As you go in you are greeted and pointed in the direction you need to go – what a difference from the cattle queues in the big cinemas. You can sit in a comfortable chair around a table downstairs with a bar in the back of the auditorium. Half way up the stairs is the Circle bar with huge picture windows, you are welcome to take your drink upstairs to the more traditional cinema seats. There are a couple of changes, leg room – Hoorah! You can book a ‘love seat’ so you can snuggle up or even a ‘Royal Box’ if your taste runs to that.
All those little quirks that made the Regal so special have been retained, my beloved lights are only one of them. Where appropriate tradition has given way – a new digital screen that even I can see clearly is one of them. The coffee shop that stays open late is an excellent innovation, you are not chased away after the show has finished, it’s lovely to be able to sit and chat about the film. The newly revived Chums Club for the kids is going from strength to strength.
I could wax lyrical for hours on how impressed I am, far better that you see for yourself. Suffice it to say that three visits in less than three weeks and a couple more planned for next week shows the quality of the programme. That will result in a series of film reviews and you can read more about it in those. You can see more on the Regal Website, the facebook page or the very active facebook group.
Last words – to all the team involved congratulations and thank you – if there was an Oscar for Cinema Restoration, you would win it.
Photos by kind permission and courtesy of the Regal Cinema, The Evesham Observer, the volunteers and patrons of the Regal.