The Regent Theatre: Surviving 20 Years of Darkness

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Dreamtime Australia 2013
Dreamtime Australia 2013

The room is pulsing, the wine is flowing and a group of South Korean delegates are getting down “Gangnam Style” on stage with a Psy impersonator. It’s my last night in Melbourne for Dreamtime Australia 2013, and the events unfolding in the Regent Theatre’s Plaza Ballroom have made for a sensational adieu. Absorbing the energy and beauty of the room, it’s hard to fathom that the Regent Theatre, one of the last picture palaces in Australia, has survived floods, fire and 20 years of darkness since opening in 1929. Much to the credit of Melbournians, who stood together against the wrecker’s ball in the 1970s, and the umbrella of the Historic Buildings Act that same decade.

As part of Melbourne’s glamorous entertainment era when going to the movies was an event and a matinee a treat, the 2,162-seat theatre is an anchor to Melbourne’s bustling Collins Street. It’s also a worthy spot for creating ‘wow’ moments for your meetings, incentives and events.

Tonight, over 100 delegates from 12 countries have hunkered down here beneath the ballroom’s exquisite Juliette balconies and crystal chandeliers for one last jolt of Melbourne’s incentive showcase. And when it comes to creating the proverbial wow factor, Tourism Australia has left no stone unturned.

Framed photos of my group members, superimposed in front of some of Australia’s greatest icons, are positioned across the length of our table. Seemingly impromptu performances by delegates who are called to the stage (just now, an English trio has strapped on kilts to join the City of Melbourne Pipe Band) compete for attention with Virgin Australia Chef Luke Mangan’s lip-smacking spread of Tasmanian salmon and Victorian beef.

This sensory explosion, combined with laser-like attention to detail, has characterized our past two days in Melbourne and is also a driving force behind Australia’s reputation for organizing above and beyond business events.

“Australia has so many invigorating and exciting incentive experiences to offer—such as sleeping under the stars in the desert or climbing over one of the world’s most iconic bridges in Sydney,” says Samantha Holmes, business events executive for Tourism Australia. “But our outstanding business facilities and venues also allow for large-scale association events and international conventions.”

Here surrounded by over 100 colleagues and the soft purple haze of what feels like a colossal Spanish cave, I’m inclined to agree.

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