Several months after the initial target date, eight years after promoter Mitchell Frank first tried to secure the lease and 100 years after it first opened, the Regent Theater in downtown Los Angeles appears ready to make its debut this weekend as a concert and events venue.
Workers scurried Thursday afternoon to make last-minute preparations for shows Friday and Saturday night that the Regent is packaging as the Downtown Festival, featuring YACHT, Connan Mockasin and more. With a capacity of just over 1,100 – 900 on the gently sloped floor and 200-plus on the mezzanine – the Regent becomes the latest entry in the booming concert business in L.A., now the largest live music market in the nation.
“I think there is a lot of desire in the marketplace for this size a room,” said Frank, whose Spaceland Presents promotions company has partnered with Knitting Factory Entertainment and investment firm Artist and Recreation LLC – the latter of whom counts among its principals Facebook millionaire Ezra Callahan – on the project. “I knew all along that we would be in a very competitive situation, but everything happens in good time.”
The Regent, at 448 S. Main St. in L.A.’s Old Bank District, always lacked the opulence of many of downtown’s historic theaters, but the renovation finds the room gussied up beyond its original Gothic look. Frank acknowledges that rebuilding the Regent’s infrastructure took precedence over any extravagant design flourishes. (Even with a fresh coat of paint, the Regent, with its ceiling crumbling and faulty bathrooms, was barely passable back in 2009 when Jack White and Third Man Records did a pop-up Dead Weather show there.)
“It’s not as sophisticated as some of downtown’s theaters, or some [in Hollywood], but I don’t have a billion-dollar company behind me,” he said. “Probably 95%Â of our budget went to the structure. We rubbed two sticks together to do the rest, but I’m really happy with the way it looks. And the sight lines are fantastic.”
Flanking the theater are two smaller establishments that will function as separate businesses, Prufrock Pizzeria to the north and a bar called The Love Song. They derive their names from T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock,” which Frank cites as an inspiration from his youth. As at Frank’s other venues, the Echo and Echoplex, which are adjacent to Two Boots Pizza, food will be available in the music venue.
Some of the old Regent remains – the wood used for the tables and bars is re-purposed from the venue’s ceiling. And an old piano that was found in the venue now occupies a space in The Love Song.
After weathering the usual construction and permitting delays, is Frank, who hopes to do 12 to 16 shows per month at the Regent, relieved that the venue is finally opening? “Talk to me after our first 100 shows,” he said with a smile.