In the town of Picton, in the heart of Prince Edward County lies the Regent Theatre, a historic gem and cornerstone of the community. One of the few Edwardian-era opera theatres left in Canada, Regent Theatre has been open for over a century—with its historic roots predating even the arrival of cinema in Canada.
Sitting in pride of place on Main Street in picturesque Picton, architecture and history fans will adore this beautifully-restored 1920s throwback. A taste of a bygone era, the Regent may be surrounded by other historical buildings, but none have quite as much of the glitz and glam of this iconic theatre.
While visitors come from around the world to pose outside its iconic facade, Prince Edward County’s celebrated centre for the arts is still in operation today, showcasing movies, plays, concerts and live-streamed fine arts from around the world.
For up-to-date information and details on the Regent Theatre, we recommend you visit their website. For information about other places of interest to explore nearby, keep scrolling to see what Destination Ontario recommends.
More about Regent Theatre
Now mostly operating as a movie theatre, with new releases, arthouse films and world cinema, along with local productions and satellite performances of dance, theatre and opera from around the world, The Regent Theatre’s history is a bit like a movie in itself.
Also known as the ‘Monarch of Main Street,’ The Regent Theatre’s roots actually date back to 1838, when the building that would go on to become the County’s much-loved theatre was first built. Back then, it was a commercial block with shop fronts and a factory, with no signs of its future stardom.
In 1913, George Cook purchased the building, spending over five years renovating and converting it into Prince Edward County’s first theatre. It was opened in 1918 to much fanfare. After more renovations in 1922, it was complete—with 1100 seats, a stage as big as the famous Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, the ten crystal chandeliers, and—of course—its iconic facade.
For its first 40 years, the Regent Theatre was a resounding success with folks coming from across the County and the mainland alike to see movies, performances and shows. It was a much-treasured addition to Prince Edward County’s cultural scene, beloved by locals and holidaymakers alike, especially on cold, rainy days.
However, after George Cook passed away, business slowed down and, eventually, in 1984, the doors were closed and Picton’s days of showbiz were (temporarily) shattered. Still, as in true movie style, it wasn’t the end for our plucky hero.
After a decade of standing empty, the County’s art and history lovers were able to band together and the newly-formed Regent Theatre Foundation—a community-based not-for-profit—and purchase it from the Cook family. After spending a few years lovingly (and painstakingly) restoring it to its former glory—cue a movie-style montage—the Regent once again opened its doors.
In the years since, the Regent has once again reclaimed its crown as the cultural heartbeat of Picton and Prince Edward County. It seats 446 patrons, has plenty of fancy features, like air-conditioning and a new projector—and, the lobby once again sparkles with the glint of crystal, with specially-made chandeliers imported all the way from Austria to add a wonderful sprinkle of that 1920s glitz.
The Regent Theatre Ghost
As part of a community fundraising drive, the Regent Theatre started a search for their very own ghost in October 2020. Feeling a bit left out that they didn’t have their own famous ghost already, they started a campaign offering one lucky person the chance to haunt the Regent in their afterlife.
The campaign was a huge success, with Dr Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) from Ghostbusters making a video encouraging people to submit their applications—and promising not to “bust them”! The winner was a lucky fella from Picton itself, Ryan Aldred, who was granted “the perpetual and eternal right to haunt the Regent Theatre as a ghost” (after he crosses over the rainbow bridge, of course).
Visiting Picton & The Regent Theatre
The biggest community in Prince Edward County (yet still home to less than 5,000 people), Picton is located on the Bay of Quinte on Lake Ontario. While it’s easiest to drive into the town, you can also sail right in and moor your boat up in the harbour.
A popular holiday spot, there is plenty of accommodation, from camping to staying in picturesque B&Bs and holiday cottages full of the County’s country character. While you might swing by to visit the Regent Theatre alone—and it’s worth it—there are so many other enticing things to do here that before you know it you’ve ended up staying a week, so come prepared.
Picton (and Prince Edward County in general), is also known for its amazing food, with plenty of local cafes, pubs and restaurants serving up meals fresh from the County’s farms, so make sure you leave time to squeeze in a quick lunch or dinner before your show.
While you wait for the doors to open and the curtains to come up, you can also explore Picton’s art galleries, boutique stores and antique shops, head out on a boat trip, visit the observatory, swing by a brewery or a winery, check out nearby Sandbanks National Park, or, squeeze in a couple of stops on the Prince Edward County Arts Trail or the Taste Trail.
Know Before You Go
- The Regent is mostly staffed by volunteers and runs on donations/profits.
- Regent Theatre mostly opens as a cinema, showcasing hot-off-the-press movies on matinee and evening showings.
- Every other Monday, Cinefest presents more off-beat arthouse films from around the world.
- Twice a month, County Docs showcases local documentary films.
- There is a concession stand where you can buy popcorn, liquorice and soft drinks.
- They also occasionally offer live streaming shows.