Thornbury TaphouseDiscover Our Story
High Street Thornbury embraced its unique style of grandeur on August 8, 1925, when the opulent Regent Theatre opened its doors. The drive of F.W. Thring, combined with the expansive designs of Sam Millsom and Sons, created this theatrical jewel of the north.
Local dignitaries spoke: The Regent Orchestra played as Thring’s second of three Regent Theatres was officially opened. The Regent South Yarra opened in April, and The Regent Theatre Gardiner, following in September, completed Thring’s vision.
‘Argentine Love’ and ‘The Hurricane Kid’ were the cinematic offerings to grace the Thornbury Regent Theatre’s silver screen at the grand opening.
The night was a great success and nine months later to the day, F.W.Thring bestowed upon the good folk of Melbourne another lasting gift, the birth of his son Frank Thring Jnr.
Regarded as one of Victoria’s most flamboyant characters, Frank Thring Jnr. became one of the first Australian actors to succeed in Hollywood. ‘Ben Hur,’ ‘King of Kings,’ ‘El Cid,’ all enhanced by Thring Jnr’s performance.
More importantly, for the culture of Melbourne and Victoria, Frank Thring Jnr. was the first Melburnian renowned for always being clad in black. You can pick a Melburnian, anywhere in the world, to this day; they’ll be wearing something black.
Thring Jnr. was prescient in another important manner, impacting the entire nation. Frank Thring Jnr. was not intimidated by the mores and restrictive moral attitudes of the day. He flaunted his gayness and life style. It took Australia another half century to openly accept people as they are, and embrace the great diversity its populace offered.
Frank Thring Jnr. developed his love of all things theatrical, and a flair for extravagence, from his exposure when a young lad to the exotic style of Thornbury’s Regent Theatre. Victoria is richer for it.
Sam Millsom did not live to see the opening of The Thornbury Regent Theatre, but a century after his passing, people still respond to the wow factor of Millsom’s vision.
The sumptuous stairway, worthy of a Zeigfeld Follies production, rising underneath the intoxicating genius of the magnificent surprise dome, still arouses a sense of wonder and imagination.
Millsom was firmly of the belief his company, SAM MILLSOM AND SONS. FIBROUS PLASTERER EXPERTS, ARCHITECTS AND FIGURE MODELLERS, were the best, and he was going to prove it. Despite his company’s lack of formal qualifications to possess such expertise, prove it he did.
Melbourne, by the 1920’s had established itself as one of the world’s wealthiest, most stylish, and grand cities.’ In 1922 Millsom and Sons,’ together with the renowned architect Henry White, fashioned the look of the CBD’s new theatre, the Princess Theatre. Sam Millsom’s death the following year, fortunately, did not result in any blanding down of the Millsom company’s trade mark flourishes.
After the theatre’s opening, it was said, the good folk of Thornbury no longer had to travel to the city to experience exquisite theatrical finery. It was all there in High Street. By replicating some of the designs they had created for The Princess Theatre, ‘Millsom and Sons’ effectively brought the city to Thornbury. The classical figurines, nymphs, horse motifs, and serenely curved ceiling completed the imposing look; Above all, the luxurious dome ensured the Thornbury Regent’s timeless, enduring Wow factor
Thornbury Regent Theatre comfortably accommodated 1,627 patrons. It provided a stage large enough to support leading vaudeville acts; a silver screen second to none; an orchestra pit; cloak room; everything you would expect from such a state of the art venue. Except for one thing. During the cooler months patrons needed to rug up. Heating was not installed until 1946. Still, Melburnians wear coats well. It is part of our style.
All movies were silent at the time of the Theatre’s opening in 1925. ‘The Jazz Singer’ starring A Jolson in 1927, the first talking picture anywhere across the world. Thring Senior spared no expense installing a superior sound system in 1929, into the renamed Thornbury Hoyts Theatre, ensuring it maintained its position of prominence in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, providing a hub for those seeking an evening of elegant entertainment.