The Regent Theatre, located at 117 South Limestone Street in downtown Springfield, Ohio, was designed by Charles Howard Crane. With work beginning in 1919,5 the new theater opened on August 16, 1920 by Gus Sun for the Sun Vaudeville Circuit as a vaudeville theater.2 5 The $300,000 theater opened with the silent film, “Yes or No,” with over 2,000 in attendance.5
The building housed a one-stage theater with two tiers of seating and a second-story office for Gustave Ferdinand Klotz, also known as Gus Sun, a well known vaudeville booking agent and manager, for his Gus Sun Booking Exchange and the Gus Sun Amusement Company.2 3 5
Klotz, who came to Springfield to open a theatrical booking agency in 1906, helped the Marx Brothers, the Ritz Brothers, W.C. Fields, Al Jolson, Will Rogers, George Burns, Bert Lahr and Edgar Bergen start their acting careers.3 Gus Sun had a storied history, and it was reported in 1947 that Warner Bros. was considering making a movie based upon his life.
During the hay-day of vaudeville, the Sun booking agency provided a circuit of 275 theaters with entertainers.3 By the early 1940’s, as vaudeville declined in popularity, the agency switched into booking acts for county and state fairs. But it’s high of ten offices nationwide had dropped to just three by 1942: Springfield, Detroit and Des Moines, Iowa.
In October 1928, the Regent was sold to the Chakeres Amusement Company.5 Owing to the rising popularity of “talking” movies, the final vaudeville performance was held on April 28, 1929. On May 12, the Regent showed its first Vitaphone sound film. The theater was later converted into a two-screen complex by adding a screen on the stage and along the balcony.2
The Regent Cinemas, as it was later known, was closed by Chakeres on January 31, 1992 following the 9:30 p.m. showing of “Love Crimes” and the 10 PM showing of “Juice.”2
In 2012, the Turner Foundation, which acquired the shuttered Regent Theatre, installed a new roof and removed the deteriorating signage in 2012.4 The sign was placed into storage for future restoration. A year later, the marquee was removed due to safety concerns and placed in storage awaiting restoration.1 Work began in the summer of 2014 to stabilize and partially restore the front façade, which included painting and cosmetic repairs.[accordion title=”Sources”]
- Sanctis, Matt. “Local firm upgrades historic Regent theatre.” Springfield News-Sun 11 June 2014: n. pag. Web. 12 June 2014. Article.
- Hoyts, Mike. “Regent Theatre.” Cinema Treasures. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2014. Article.
- McGinn, Andrew. “Gus Sun mural looms large, just like the vaudeville legend.” Springfield News-Sun 24 Aug 2009: n. pag.
- Mason, Everdeen. “Downtown renovations set.” Springfield News-Sun 9 Mar. 2012: n. pag. 12 June 2014. Article.
- “Regent Theatre.” Springfield Has History. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2014. Article.