Regal Cinema

The modern cinema that set the ball rolling for Mumbai’s Art Deco.

Regal Cinema was inaugurated on 14 October, 1933, with the Laurel and Hardy comedy, The Devil’s Brother. As Bombay’s first Art Deco cinema, it was a breakaway from the Victorian Gothic and Indo-Saracenic structures in its vicinity.

Cinema prgramme for Regal Cinema, Dated 10 July 1937 (1937)Art Deco Mumbai

It was commissioned by Framji Sidhwa and his friend KA Kooka, who ran the Calcutta-based Globe Theatres.

Perspective view of Regal Cinema (2017/2017)Art Deco Mumbai

Charles Frederick Stevens designed the cinema. Interestingly, his father Frederick William Stevens, designed the Victoria Terminus (now known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus), a towering 19th century railway station in the Victorian Gothic style. 

Aerial view of Wellington Circle, MumbaiOriginal Source: Jehangir Sorabjee Archive

In its architecture, the cinema was sensitively designed to echo the spirit of the skyline of gables, turrets and domes, which characterise the Wellington Fountain circle on which the Regal was built.

The cinema was truly ahead of its time. It was fully air-conditioned, had an underground parking, an elevator, and even a special telephone attached to the seats for the hearing impaired to follow what was said on screen. 

With concealed lights and central air-conditioning, the ceiling had a "clean appearance", free from suspended lights and fans obstructing the design.

Cinema programme for Regal Cinema, Dated December 1938 (1938)Art Deco Mumbai

Karl Schara, the Czechoslovakian artist, designed the interiors with bold sunray cubist motifs in pale orange and jade green, in harmony with the modern simplicity of the exteriors. Many of the original embellishments, however, were obliterated during renovations in 1953.

On either side of the screen, intricately carved theatre masks representing Tragedy and Comedy are displayed on the walls - a reference to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

Close-up view of the facade of Regal Cinema (2017/2017)Art Deco Mumbai

Similar murals can also be seen on the building’s facade, on either side of the theatre’s name. At one time, the lettering used to be lit up in neon.

Another interesting feature, on the steps leading up to the balcony, is the Oscar trophy etched into a mirror panel – an homage to the theatre's early association with Hollywood films.

Regal was comparable to the luxurious cinema houses in the West. Special attention was paid to comfort, with multiple entrances into the balcony and boxes, and seats imported from London. The magnificent theatre accommodated 1200 patrons at once.

A street-corner building, it boasted of a soda fountain with a side entrance on its ground floor. It became a hub for quick refreshments, whether for patrons or passersby.

Regal Cinema, Mumbai (2019/2019) by Shubhika MalaraArt Deco Mumbai

An enduring landmark in Mumbai’s Colaba area, Regal Cinema marks the beginnings of a new epoch as the city entered a modern era. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Hindi Cinema
Your ticket into the magical world of Indian cinema
View theme
Google apps