The Regent Theatre
Dominating Picton’s main street is the old Regent Theatre, which many people remember fondly from Friday night movie dates and Saturday afternoon matinees. But the Regent started life as a first-class vaudeville theatre, its stage built to the same specifications as the old Royal Alexandria Theatre in Toronto.
The Regent was built in 1922 by Greek emigrant George Cook, who had come to the area via the United States. For a number of years, it was a popular booking for touring reperatory companies, opera companies and local amateur theatrical groups. Many tourist would come to the County for the shows and stay for the weekend in the then elegant Royal Hotel.
Cook had also had considerable experience presenting and promoting moving pictures, and the Regent was equipped to show the latest reels. Prior to the building of the Regent, Cook was involved with the Bijou Opera House (the Town Hall), which stood where Picton Town Hall is still located. The Bijou had long been a popular venue for local productions and Cook utilized the hall for many movie presentations. Unfortunately, the hall was gutted by fire in 1923.
The Regent became an institution in the town. Many families from outlying areas would come into Picton on a Saturday night, take in the show at the Regent, then purchase groceries and do their shopping after the movie. (In those days, Picton stores stayed open until midnight.) Sadly, as operating costs became prohibitive in recent years, the theatre was seldom used and was in danger of falling into disuse completely, until a local group decided to try and purchase the building. The Regent Theatre Foundation eventually succeeded in raising a down payment for the building in the spring of 1994, but were faced with the costs of a substantial mortgage when an anonymous donor presented the Foundation with a donation of $300,000, on the proviso that the mortgage be retired.
Restoration of the Regent Theatre continues and the foundation hopes to re-establish its reputation as “the finest stage between Toronto and Montreal”.
Source: Kellough, Janet. The Legendary Guide to Prince Edward County. Picton, Ont.: Kellough Productions, 1994.