• Tony Bosworth

Richmond’s iconic Regent Theatre is sold, but the show will go on…

Richmond’s iconic 1935 Regent Theatre went up for sale back in 2019 and at last it has found a new owner and that means John Levy – who bought the cinema more than 32 years ago - can at last have a bit of a rest, and maybe settle back and watch some of his own extensive collection of movies.

The news the Regent is going to a local businessman will be welcomed across the Hawkesbury and sets the heritage-listed movie theatre up for many more years of entertainment.

“I decided to sell,” Mr Levy told the Post, “and it’s been on the market for a while. But now we’ve managed to get a buyer who will keep it going, and that’s really good news.”

The cinema is one of only a handful of independents still surviving in Sydney’s suburbs and it holds fond memories for many Hawkesbury locals since it opened way back on July 17, 1935.

Mr Levy says there used to be around 170 independent cinemas across Sydney suburbs and now there are only about seven.

And funnily enough here’s a bit of local movie trivia - Mr Levy and his late wife Joanna bought the cinema in September 1989 from entertainer Michael Walsh who bought it from the original owner, also called Michael Walsh, and now the new owner is, yes, another Michael.

Mr Levy won’t be drawn on the identity of the new owner just yet because the business won’t officially be handed over until late January.

Mr Levy – now in his 84th year, but still as keen as ever on movies, has agreed to stay on to help the new owners get used to how the cinema runs. He’ll be there behind the scenes until sometime in February 2022.

Richmond Regent's long-time owner John Levy

He says the new owner’s plan is for his daughter to be shown the ropes by Mr Levy and the staff, and a new manager will also be employed to run the business day-to-day.

“Everyone says to me, what are you going to do, and I say I’ll work that out when the time comes around,” Mr Levy told the Post this week.

“I love my old cinemas and love the Regent but at my time of life now I’ve got to take it a bit easier and not be tied down so I’m very pleased that we’ve been able to secure a buyer and he said to me anytime you want to come down and watch a movie you are very welcome to do so.”

Mr Levy says the entertainment business has changed dramatically with more people watching movies on streaming services, and on their own large TVs or even home theatre systems.

But as he points out - there is nothing quite like the cinema experience.

“You can’t get the same atmosphere at home,” he says.

“A TV at home as against watching a big screen in a cinema, there is no comparison. And having an audience surrounding you, you don’t get that enjoyment so much watching at home as you would going to the cinema.”

Mr Levy reckons he won’t be moving out of the Richmond area, though once he has more time on his hands he will go to visit his daughter and family more often.

“I’m very happy the Regent is going to someone who will keep it going because the public keep asking me is it going to stay as a cinema, and I say yes it is.”

He says while new seats have not long ago been put in downstairs, along with new carpeting and a smartened up candy bar, which cost over $100,000 over the last 18 months, and the upstairs cinema was refurbished some years ago, it is still very much the Regent just as it was 1935 – it’s still about local block-buster entertainment and that looks set to continue and it’s a real testament to Mr Levy and his love of all things movies.

The Regent has been closed since June because of the COVID pandemic but will reopen on November 4 with ETERNALS, RON’S GONE WRONG and THE LAST DUEL. The new James Bond move NO TIME TO DIE starts on November 11.

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