The Regal celebrated 20 years on the Boroma Way site this week with a party for members and special guests with a drinks reception followed by a special screening of the Lost City of Z, a James Gray film based on the novel by David Grann.
The Regal first opened their doors on 26 February 1997 with a gala premiere of “The Crucible” with the Mayor, the late Terry Buckett, cutting a reel of film to open the new building. The cinema is built on part of the site of the original Regal/Odeon Cinema (1937-1986) which was demolished in 1993 to build the new Waitrose supermarket on. After a public outcry and campaign to save it led by Henley Residents Group and Henley Fighting Fund and backed by George and Olivia Harrison, Waitrose were forced to change their plans to put a provision for a cinema to be rebuilt on the site. It was several years before an operator could be found and during this time the Kenton Theatre screen films for the town. Metro Tartan Distribution became the first operators of the cinema until it was taken over by City Screen (Picturehouse Cinemas chain) in December 2005 and then in 2012 they became part of the Cineworld group.
Ian Giuliani, a member said, “It’s great that we have a local cinema still, the Regal today wouldn’t be here without Chris Leeming, an architect who fronted the Henley Fighting Fund over the Waitrose development.”
Over the weekend, cinema goers could enjoy current films at 1997 prices.
Regal Manager, Melissa McFarlane said, “Thank you to those who came along to help us celebrate our 20th birthday on Monday. It was such a pleasure to share it with so many of you and I must thank the Mayor, Julian Brookes for taking time out of his busy schedule to pop along. Thank you for your continued support of the Regal.”
After reading this article, District Councillor, Joan Bland added, “I actually was the catalyst to save the Regal along with Chris Leeming. I registered a limited Company to put in a bid to Waitrose for the Cinema as they kept on saying that they could not find a suitable operator.I was concerned that the site would become offices. The Henley Cinema and Theatre Company Ltd. was the name of the company as we wished to have live performances as well as movies. Chris drew up wonderful plans . The third cinema was big enough to house the Henley Orchestra in a 500 seated auditorium that extended over the car park. Waitrose was stalling to except the offer of the first bidder. I had top lawyers on board and top accounts Clark Whitehall from Reading. Waitrose had to make a decision. They went for the first bidder whom they had been in contact with for some time. Later I stood for Council. I am a person of action, I am not out to gain political points. This is the first time that I have made this information public.”