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Regent Theatre (1918-1957)
Located in Davidson building on 924 Washington Avenue.

Preface: The Regent Theater was quite unique, as it was built inside of the huge Davidson building, opposite the State Theater. The theater was entered through a hallway leading to its a large open space where the refreshment booth was located. On the south of this room was a large open stairway to the balcony area. Two entrances to the lower level were to the left and right of the stairway, with the stage and screen on the south wall.

Regent theatre in the news. - Added Nov., 2009.

Michigan Film Review (1917-18)

Published Weekly in the Interests of the Moving
Picture Exhititors and Exchanges of Michigan.

Feb. 18, 1918...
-- After many unfortunate delays, it looks as if the opening of the new Fred Williams theatre in Bay City would take place around the first of April. It is going to be a very up-to-day theatre – large and right up-to-date in every respect.

Mar. 12, 1918...
-- Fred Williams, promoter and manger of the new Regent theatre, Bay City, says the house will be open about April 1st. The premiere attraction will be "The Auction Block," a Goldwyn picture. The theatre will seat about 1,500 and will be very beautiful and artistic. Mr. Williams has signed a Goldwyn franchise for 13 pictures after have seen most of them. He will place each Goldwyn for three days.
Mar. 19, 1918...
-- for the opening of the new Regent theatre, Bay City, is set for Easter Sunday, according to Fred Williams, manager.
Apr. 16, 1918...


Theatre-goers of Bay City were given a real treat on Saturday evening, March 30th, when the new Regent theatre was opened to them. As is usually the case at most openings, the theatre was packed long before the first show and there were hundreds of people standing outside hoping to get a “peep.”

The Regent represents the last word in theatre building – this is the verdict of those who went there. The convenience of its accessibility, the plan of its lay-out, the readiness with which it can be heated, and ventilated, the beauty of its interior, the superiority of its acoustic properties and the richness of everything throughout, commend themselves to the visitor without any word of explanation or laudation.

Fred B. Williams, the general manager and the man responsible for this splendid enterprise, came to Bay City about two years ago as manager of the Bijou theatre. He was later shifted to another Butterfield theatre, but he didn't like the idea of leaving Bay City, where he had made many good friends, so he conceived the idea of building a theatre place – one that would be a monument to the city. It didn't take him long to interest the Davidson Building Co., who owned just the piece of property he had cited for such an amusement place, and plans were immediately prepared for the building.

The opening attraction was “The Auction Block,” a Goodwin production, and we might say right here that Mr. Williams has booked 26 Goldwyn-Capital Comedies. The policy is continuous performances daily from 1 to 10:30 p. m. Program completely changed every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Prices 10c, 15c, 20c, 25c at the matinees, and 10c, 15c, 20, 25, and 50c at night.

And now, briefly, a mere outline of the theatre:

The Entrance and Foyer.

The entrance is from Washington avenue, the lobby being 20 feet wide and 50 feet long, with a terrazo floor and a terro cotta wall 10 feet high, with wall and ceiling decorations to match. In the lobby is a semi-circular booth, done in oak, for use of the ticket seller.

The visitor enters the foyer from the lobby and the lobby is one of the most interesting features of the house. It is 39x50 feet and from it goes a double iron stairway with six feet marble treads. From the foyer are floors leading to a ladies' rest room , and a men's smoking and rest room, and a check room. From the rest rooms are lavatories with hot and cold water and all home conveniences. What woodwork there is in the foyer is of oak. A drinking fountain stands on the side from which deep well water may be obtained.

The Auditorium.

From the back or foyer wall to the stage is a distance of 130 feet, and the width of the auditorium is the same as the rest of the theatre, 50 feet. There is no wood visible, excepting the maple floor, which is laid on reinforced concrete, fire-proofed. The same is true of the balcony. There is practically no wood used in the theatre at all.

The auditorium has 846 leather opera chairs, placed far enough apart to convince the occupant that his comfort had been considered in the designs. There are two boxes on loges. The seating capacity of the balcony is 494, and of the boxes and loges 60, so that the total capacity of the theatre is upwards of fourteen hundred. The aisles are broad and back of the auditorium seats, first and second floors, are large spaces for standing room if desired. There has been no scrimping on account of room, because there has been all the room needed to answer every purpose.

The Stage.

It will do traveling actors and actresses good to see the stage and connections of the Regent theatre. The basement under the stage is all of concrete construction. Here are the absolutely fire-proof dressing rooms, fourteen in number, each having wash basin, dressing table and other conveniences. There is also a room containing a bath tub and another with a shower bath. There is also a toilet on this floor.

The proscenium opening of the stage is 30 feet wide, leaving ten feet on either side of the flies. From the front of the stage back to the rear wall it is a distance of 31 feet. Back of the wall is another wall, the two forming what is called the scene dock, nine feet wide. It is in this dock that the scenery of a play can be stored when not in use. At either side is a high, wide opening or door which permits connection with the dock. It is from the floor of the dock that the two stairways lead to the dressing rooms in the basement.

The height from the stage to the fly loft is 60 feet, and from the stage to the fly gallery, 21 feet. The height of the fly loft permits the handling of large as well as small drops carried by traveling companies.

The Picture Room.

In the back wall, above the seats of the balcony, are a number of holes through which the pictures are to be projected. The room in which the picture machines are placed is large and airy, although without natural light. The room has been made fire-proof by the use of non-inflammable material such as cement on floor and stone of brick on walls and ceiling. The architect says this room is absolutely fire-proof.

Emergency Exits.

There are two emergency exits from the main floor into the alley, another on the west side into a hallway that leads to Washington avenue. The same exits are to be found in the balcony, two of them leading to automatic fire escapes.

The Decorations.

The visitor to the Regent will be impressed by the modesty of the decorations. They are called the Adam design, a scheme first given to the world by the Adam brothers of England early in the 18th century. Greys and creams are used with a very little gilt, the the scheme being to have them delicate, simple and chaste.

Mdral Painting.

The largest color painting in Bay City aside from those on opera house curtains, is the mural painting directly above the proscenium arch. This beautiful piece of color work was done by a young Detroit artist.

Heating and Ventilation.

In heating and ventilation the aid has been to surpass any other system in the state, for a public auditorium. There is no direct radiation whatever. All of the heating comes from fresh warm air, taken in above the roof down though duct to hot coils, where the air is tempered. It is then drawn into a chamber and driven from there into the theatre. The heading has the Johnson control, so that temperature can be kept within two degrees of where the thermostadt is set. In summer, the same system will be used with the exception that the coils will not be heated. Fresh air will be drawn into the theatre continually and discharged as fast as it is taken in. In winter or summer, the temperature will be kept even, with no drafts.

The Switchboard.

The electricity switchboard is on the east end of the stage. It is the latest invention, and what it is capable of accomplishing would require a book for telling about it. Briefly, the switchboard is what is called “dead,” as at no part of it can a person get a shock of electricity, and there is absolutely no danger of fire being started by it. All the lights in the house are controlled from the stage. The red, white and blue effects, brought about through dimming, are very attractive.

The Organ.

The Regent theatre has a Wurlitzer Hope-Jones unit orchestra.

Interesting Points.

There are no pillars anywhere in the auditorium or balcony, of the theatre, and there is no obstruction of the view to the stage from any of the seats.

The aisles and open spaces of the floor, the boxes and loges are carpeted with a gray-blue Axminster.

The theatre organ is to be augmented by sine members of the Boston Ladies' Symphony Orchestra.

-- The new Regent theatre, Bay City, Fred B. Williams, manager, was formally opened last Saturday night to tremendous crowds. “The Auction Block” was the attention. The Regent theatre cost $750,000, and seats 1,400. There are 486 seats on the lower floor, 494 in the balcony and 60 in the boxes and loges. More about this next week.

-- did a big business for three days at the Regent theatre, Bay City.
May 28, 1918...
-- Fred Williams, of the Regent theatre, Bay City, has signed for the World pictures, and will show them two days each. Mr. Williams has also contracted for World comedies and will show each release three days.
May 28, 1918.
-- in Detroit were Mrs. Fred Williams, Regent theatre, of Bay City; Mrs. Rice, Temple theatre, Portland, and Mr. Boggett, of the Majestic theatre, Battle Creek.

-- of the Regent theatre, Bay City, has booked Paralta pictures, first-run, in that town.


Sept. 25, 1918.

Mr. J. E. Flynn,
Mgr. Goldwyn Dist. Corp.
Film Bldg., Detroit, Mich.

My Dear Flynn: You may have at times put me down for a “crank” regarding the value of pictures, but even if you have formed that opinion of me, I still have one virtue left and that is to appreciate a good thing when I get it, and I am going to take this opportunity of take some of the curse off other letters by congratulating you and the Goldwyn Distributing Corp. for the first Geraldine Farrar production, “The Turn of the Wheel,” which for star direction, photography, entertainment, story and box office magnetism has everything you have ever produced backed off the map, and in the opinion of my patrons, is one of the best pictures ever exhibited in Bay City. Geraldine Farrar's drawing power in this city has more that doubled by her excellent work in “The of the Wheel,” and a high standard for Goldwyn pictures has been set that I feel sure will be maintained through the entire year, and I feel mighty good about the contract I have with your firm. Keep up the good work.

With very kindest regards, I am yours for

Regent Theatre, Bay City

Other Bay City theatres in the news. - Added Nov., 2009.

Michigan Film Review (1917-18)

Published Weekly in the Interests of the Moving
Picture Exhititors and Exchanges of Michigan.

Nov. 6, 1917...
-- Work has already started on the reconstruction of the Wenonah theatre, Bay City, recently damaged by fire. It will reopen early in December.

Dec. 25, 1918...
-- The Family Theatre in Bay City has locked up the entire list of State Film Company special features.
Jan. 1, 1918...
-- Bay City, recently damaged by fire, has been entirely remodeled and reopened Saturday, Dec. 22. R. P. Leahy, who owns the Wastington-Strand, is also owner of the Wenonah.
Jan. 8, 1918...
George McBirde, of Bay City, booked "Civilization" for a two-day engagement for his Majestic Theatre, playing it January 6th and 7th.
Jan. 8, 1918...
-- Bay City, has ordered a Hertner transverter through M. S. Bailey, Detroit, the exclusive state representative.
Feb. 19, 1918...
-- From the various reports of salesmen on the road, we understand that Dick Leahy, operating the Wenonah and Washington theatres; Bay City, is doing a most excellent business. Such news is always good news.
Feb. 19, 1918...
-- Lloyd Simpson, formerly operating the Woodside Theatre in Bay City, and recently with the Dawn Masterplay, is now with Vitagraph as special salesman in Michigan. He will handle the trade outside of Detroit.
Mar. 12, 1918
-- R. P. Leahy, of the Alladin theatre, Bay City, leaves this week for the south to be gone about three weeks.
Apr. 2, 1918...
-- (theatre) at Bay City changed hands last Saturday and is now owned by W. A. Cowan. W. D. LaTour was the former manager and owner. Cowan is new man in game.
Apr. 16, 1918...
-- recently with Vitagraph and the Dawn Masterplay, is back at the Woodside theatre, Bay City, giving it his personal and undivided attention.
Apr. 30, 1918...
-- of the Wenonah theatre, Bay City, has booked the Free Press Weekly, being producted by The Metropolitan Co., of Detroit. He will show each release two days.
May 14, 1918...
-- James Steele, division manager for Paramount, has purchased the interests of Dick Leahy in the Wenonah and Washington theatres, Bay City. Mr. Watson is already managing the houses and doing the booking. Mr. Leahy has made no announcement as to his future intentions. Mr. Steele has quite a chain of theatres, one that will shortly open in Detroit, seating 2,000 and several in Pittsburg. However, these are his own theatres and not Paramount.
May 28, 1918...
-- manager of the Wenonah and Washington theatres, Bay City, was in Detroit last week rearranging his bookings.
May 28, 1918...
-- of Bay City, was a Detroit visitor last. While Mr. Leahy has disposed of his stock in the Wenonah Theatre Co., he still owns the property. The theatre company is simply a leasing operating company.
Jul. 30, 1918...
-- James Rutherford, for three years house manager and press agent of the Miles theatre, Detroit, has been appointed manager of the Bijou theatre, Bay City, for Col. W. S. Butterfield, “Jim” was for 22 years in the amusement business, covering circuses, vaudeville, and the legitimate, having been a producer, state director and actor during that time. Good luck, Jim.
Aug. 6, 1918...
-- of the Washington-Strand, Bay City, played “Tarzan of the Apes” to three days of big business. “The actual receipts were far beyond my expectations,'' said Mac.
Aug. 20, 1918...
-- of the Butterfield Theatres, has signed a Triangle contract to use Triangle Plays in his Bijou Theatre in Bay City for SEVEN DAYS EVERY WEEK. Mr. Beatty doesn't pick poor or even middle class pictures for any of his theatres. It would be suicide to play pictures that he did not KNOW were good.
Sep. 24, 1918...
-- Bay City, re-opened Saturday, September 7th, after being closed for a period of five weeks during alterations. The house has been completely redecorated throughout, the prevailing color scheme is ivory and gold which makes a very pleasing contrast. New furniture and tapestries have been installed as well as new state setting making it one of the finest house in northern Michigan. T. D. Harris, formerly leader of orchestra of nine men. The Washington-Strand, as well as the Wenonah, Bay City, are leased by Pittsburg parties. W. C. Watson is resident manger of above theatres.
-- View full publication [Google Books]
Related Notes & Pages



Regent Theatre
924 Washington Ave.

Regent sign being removed from the Davidson bldg.
The debut movie "Austion Block" was based on a book written by Rex Beach (1877-1949) who was born at Atwood, MI.
Related Pages:
Theatre History
People Referenced
Baily, M.S.
Beatty, Ed
Butterfield, W.S.
Cowan, W.A.
Farrar, Geraldine
Flynn, J.E.
Harris, T.D.
LaTour, W.D.
Leahy, Richard P.
McBride, George
Rice, Mrs.
Rutherford, James
Simpson, Lloyd
Steele, James
Watson, W.C.
Williams, Fred B.
Subjects Referenced
Alladin theatre (B.C.)
Battle Creek, MI
Bay City, MI
Bijou theatre
Boston Ladies' Symphony
Butterfield theatres
Davidson Building Co.
Dawn Masterplay Co.
Detroit, MI
Family theatre (B.C.)
Goldwyn Distributing Corp.
Goldwyn productions
Hertner transverter
Majestic threatre (B.C.)
Majestic theatre (Det.)
Metropolitan Co. (Det.)
Miles theatre (Det.)
Paralta pictures
Paramount Plays
Pittsburg, PA
Portland, MI
Temple theatre (Portland)
Triangle Co.
Vitgraphy V-L-S-E, Inc.
Washington-Strand (B.C.)
Wenonah theatre (B.C.)
Woodside theatre (B.C.)
World Film Corp.
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.