Bay of Quinte Tourism

Behind the Curtain: How The Regent Theatre Revived its Live Entertainment Scene

When Chris Loane became The Regent Theatre’s live events coordinator about a year ago, he knew one thing: it was time to revitalize the live entertainment scene at Picton’s “Monarch on Main Street.”

“In my mind, The Regent fell asleep a little bit over the last few years,” he says. “So really the past year was about trying to reawaken the theatre in terms of notoriety, picking the best of the best Canadian talent and trying to get them here, and really showcasing the theatre as well.”

In a year that featured 60 shows — up from 18 in 2015 — from artists like Joel Plaskett, Bahamas, Tom Green, Scott Johnson, Molly Johnson and Big Sugar, it’s safe to say that reawakening is well underway. 

And if there was anyone in Prince Edward County more suited to help lead the reawakening at the 440-seat venue, Chris Loane would be the man. He has been programming live music for about 17 years at places like The Rivoli and The Drake in Toronto. Before arriving at The Regent, he was the general manager at Wellington’s Drake Devonshire.

That history with Canadian music definitely came in handy when he came to The Regent. “Because I have all those connections, I was able to call them up and say, ‘I have a great theatre.’ And they’re like, ‘What? Really? You have a theatre?’”

Keep reading for more details on how Chris revitalized the live scene at The Regent, how he tries to keep performers coming back and why you should check out a performance at the soon-to-be 100-year-old theatre. 

What’s your general process for bringing in that entertainment, Chris? How do you pick live performers? 

What I do is think about what is Canada and who’s Canadian and what that actually means. And then I end up with acts like Big Sugar and Joel Plaskett and Bahamas and The Trews. I was a comedy booker in Toronto, too, so I try to bring in Canadian comedy. So really I’m trying to bring a well-rounded programming mandate to the theatre that is accessible to all demographics. I want to make sure there are some children’s programming, I want to make sure there are some new and upcoming artists, I want to make sure there are some great tribute acts, because they’re fantastic and I want to make sure those are still in the theatre. And just keeping it busy. It wasn’t busy before, and I think a busy theatre is important.

What does a “busy theatre” look like to you?

Well, I mean we did three times the amount of shows this year that were there last year. But it also means being careful with them, making sure they’re the right ones, finding community events with the higher profile things. We do stuff with the Roc and the local community centre here, and we do stuff with the County School of Dance. So we like to stay tied to the community as well and do a lot of local shows. We offer great incentives for local shows. We offer a better deal than we do for other travelling artists because we want people to stay here with their stuff.

Do you pick live acts based on the venue at all?

It can depend on the size of the artist. Our theatre is a little smaller at 440 seats, so I tend to pick most of my artists with that theatre in mind. And yet, like the Cowboy Junkies on July 1, that was close to a sellout, and that was a bigger act. But that’s the other great thing about the theatre — you can do a big act in a small venue and it can be really intimate.

Is it getting progressively easier to book bigger names because of the theatre’s growing reputation?

I am finding it easier because Prince Edward County is an amazing area for routing a tour with an artist. It’s in the hub of everything. So if you have an artist that’s on tour, if their dates are anywhere — Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Kingston — we’re a day or half-day trip away. So I’m finding I’ve got a lot of luck with acts on tours that just have an extra day around there and are able to play the theatre. And the thing is that they don’t know there is a theatre around here, so it’s a brand new market for a lot of the agents and artists. So it’s exciting for them, too, because there aren’t a lot of new markets.

When those artists get to The Regent, how do you try to make their experience a positive one?

I know that a lot of touring acts have the same routine and things feel like a cookie cutter every day, so I try to really take care of them when they’re here. I try to make sure that for one, everything on their rider is exactly the way it should be, that they’re taken care of, that they have everything. You really have to make sure that you treat them like family while they’re here. And it seems to be working; I have got some returning engagements already. We’re trying to rebook The Trews and Joel Plasket because they both said they had such a great time here. And I’ve already booked the Mini Pops again.

For people who’ve never seen a live show at The Regent, why do you think they should check it out?

Well, it’s steeped in history for one. It’s going to be 100 years old in 2018. It’s not the most grandeur theatre, but it’s got history living in its walls, you can feel it when you’re in there. There’s not a bad seat in the house at 440 seats, and it’s a very intimate theatre, so a singer-songwriter or acoustic sounds amazing in there, but also a full band sounds amazing in there, too. So you’re looking at a really multi-dimensional theatre that’s very comfortable but has history. 

Head to theregenttheatre.org for the full entertainment lineup and tickets.

  • Lorraine Willson

    What a terrific article on downtown Picton’s Regent Theatre.

    This almost 100-year-old, independent theatre is a true gem and very much part of what gives Prince Edward County its wonderful charm. And with more than triple the number of shows in 2016, compared to the previous year, this is further proof that live theatre is alive and well in the County.

    Hats off to Chris Loane, The Regent’s Live Events Coordinator, for painting such a colourful picture of why live arts – grounded in its Canadian roots – is still so relevant in our busy world.

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