When the Regal opened in 1931, owner David Ager had thrown himself into a competitive field.

Colchester already had four cinemas by the early 30s, with the Headgate, the Empire, the Hippodrome, and the Playhouse all showing the popular pictures of the day.

But Mr Ager, who already owned the Headgate, was determined to open a luxury cinema which was a cut above the rest of the competition, and so it came to be that the Regal – a fitting name for a high-end picture house – opened its doors to the people of Colchester.

The ceremonial ribbon was cut on a February evening, and the cinema’s first screening was Rudolf Friml’s The Vagabond King – hardly considered a classic now, perhaps, but to contemporary audiences it was considered a fitting film, and it drew the crowds.

The design of the building, known as a Moorish Palace, would have been considered fashionable in 1931 – and although it is considered outdated by today’s mores, it is nothing if not distinctive.

Proprietor Mr Ager sold the Regal in 1937, but it was still a time when the popularity of picture going at its height, and the newest cinema in Colchester’s entertainment scene still did a good trade in a competitive environment.

The arrival of the television set saw many cinemas slide into a terminal decline, but the Odeon, as it was renamed in 1961, bucked the trend with live music from the likes of Cliff Richard and the Rolling Stones.

Whilst the Odeon moved with the times, other cinemas fell by the wayside – the Cameo closed in 1976, and the ABC was converted to a bingo hall in 1981.

Throughout the 80s, the Odeon continued to expand by adding more screens to its arsenal, and it had as many as six auditoriums in the 90s.

That was as good as it got for Colchester’s original Odeon, and Sam Mendes’s Road to Perdition had the honour of being the final film to be screened at the venue, which shut its doors in October 2002.

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