Regent Theatre opens new accessible seating terraces

Regent General Manager Alexandra Seay and project sponsor Herb Pliwischkies at the theatre's new accessible seating terrace. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)


A new era in accessibility at the ‘Monarch of Main Street’ is dawning.

The Regent Theatre announced late last week their fully funded accessible seating terrace project has been constructed and the seating sections are ready for public use.

The theatre was closed for construction on June 13 and re-opened as scheduled on July 8th for a live performance. According to Regent General Manager Alexandra Seay, the Accessible Seating Terrace Project creates a more inclusive audience experience by almost doubling that particular section’s seating capacity. The design also aims to restore the Art Deco heritage of the auditorium, honouring the vision that George Cook, founder of The Regent, had for his theatre more than a century ago.

The Regent’s stairwell railings were upgraded as part of accessibility upgrades. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

“Many of our volunteers and patrons have complained over the years about the difficulty of climbing the uneven auditorium stairs, especially in the dark. Similarly, the absence of side rails on one side of the stairs also posed challenges. We listened. And our designers and architects have done an excellent job of ensuring that The Regent sets a new standard for access and inclusion for all our patrons. Gone are the days of having to watch the show from the back row,” said Seay.

Before the project, The Regent Theatre had 14 accessible seats (3 per cent of total capacity 440). However, these seats were in the back row of the auditorium and could not accommodate more than one wheelchair on each side comfortably. Now, 26 wheelchairs and/or patrons with accessibility restrictions can be comfortably and safely accommodated. (6.25 per cent of new 415 capacity.)

Now, a flat terrace runs across the back section of the auditorium replacing 4 rows of in-accessible stepped seating, which makes the space easier to maneuver and more flexible.

In addition to creating the platforms, the rise/run of the auditorium stairs has been adjusted for greater comfort and additional railings and lighting fixtures have been added to improve the safety and accessibility.

Technical operations and storage has also been optimized by the relocation of the tech booth and creation of a secure storage area.

“Not only does this project make for a safer and more inclusive experience, it also allows us to start developing the Regent Experience: it creates new tourist engagement opportunities like bespoke events, VIP areas, dance floors, lounge-style seating and it allows us to accommodate seniors groups from the numerous LTC homes in our area and so much more,” added Benjamin
Thornton, Board Chair.

Funding for this project was initiated in 2020 with the Raise the Curtain campaign which raised $10,000 towards the total $150,000 target and continued with a fundraising dinner sponsored by Jamie Kennedy which raised a further $20,000.

“We are humbled by the generosity of our community. Their support throughout the pandemic and beyond has propelled The Regent into its strongest financial position in years,” added Scott DuBois, Treasurer.

In addition to numerous supporters who contributed over the course of 2020-21, in March 2022, Herb Pliwischkies generously made a $10,000 donation in memory of his late mother and father, Margerethe and Herb Pliwischkies. And, longtime Regent supporters, Vivian Maclean and  Bob Ritzer kindly matched his donation.

“The Accessible Seating Terraces will truly make a difference to those with mobility issues like Bob and caregivers like me, who truly love the
Regent Experience,”  Maclean said.

The remaining $100,000 was contributed by a funding program administered by RT09 Regional Tourism Organization. The $150,000 Accessible Seating Terrace Project is now fully financed.

The project is part of a series of renovations, beginning with the Lobby Bar, led by Sage Design & Construction in collaboration with Shoalts & Zaback Architects who look to restore The Regent Theatre’s Art Deco features.

Construction will continue over the summer and fall to revitalize flooring, walls, lighting and improving energy efficiency but will not interfere with
regular operations.

The company recently designed The Regent’s new lobby bar, which they’ve stocked full with food and drinks from some of PEC’s favourite vendors including Parsons Brewing Company, Sandbanks Winery, Sunnydale Farms, The County Chocolatier and Lemonade Dave.

“The key to The Regent’s future sustainability is flexibility and ‘instagramability’,” said Seay. “With these changes to Prince Edward County’s beloved theatre, The Regent team is excited for the new experiential tourism opportunities, partnerships with local businesses and increased community access that this project creates”