Theatre Royal, site of


Site of. On the north end of the former Regal Cinema, marking the site of Yarmouth’s long standing area of entertainment in the town. As a theatre it saw many notable productions and until recent times it’s stage was graced by many of the great actors and entertainers of their age.

The Theatre Royal, Great Yarmouth, was constructed in 1778 and opened on 4th December 1778. The theatre was rebuilt in 1820 and renamed and redecorated in 1869.


In 1888 the theatre was in a poor state of repair and was put up for sale. It was purchased for £1,200 by J. W. Nightingale, who owned several hotels and entertainment establishments in Great Yarmouth.


In 1892, the Theatre Royal was extensively altered by the renowned theatre architect, Frank Matcham. The newspaper, ERA, reported on the theatre’s reconstruction in their 20th February 1892 edition stating: extensive alterations and additions are being carried out. New exits have been made from all parts of the theatre. The ground floor will he fitted up with stalls with upholstered seats, and from here two separate exits to the side streets are made. The dress circle has now two separate exits. The upper circle has been greatly enlarged, and a wide promenade added, with retiring rooms and new saloons; this circle has now two separate exits. The gallery seating has been rearranged, and this part of the auditorium has been supplied with two separate exits. The principal structural alterations are near the stage end of the building, where four new shops have been erected. New dressing rooms and property rooms have been built and every convenience for the artists has been provided. A new pay office and manager’s room have been built at one side of the vestibule and a refreshment saloon at the other. Hydrants are to be fitted up and the theatre will be entirely redecorated, the ceiling being panelled with mouldings and rich scrolled ornaments. The fronts of the circles and gallery are to be ornamented with raised fibrous plaster enrichments and two new draped entrances to the stalls are to be formed under circular fronted and canopied private boxes, handsomely decorated. The present side entry doors in the proscenium will be ornamented with mouldings, scrolls, etc. and draped with plush. A new act drop and plush tableau curtains will he hung. The gas arrangements and fittings will be rearranged and the whole of the auditorium and entrances artistically decorated and upholstered. The work is being pushed on rapidly and will be finished in a few weeks.


With declining audiences, the theatre limited its opening hours. Its end came in 1929, when it was finally closed. It was demolished in 1933. It was one of a few 18th century theatres left in the country. A cinema, the Regal, capable of seating 1,500 people and with stage facilities was erected on the site and opened in 1934.


The Regal was taken over by Union Cinemas in 1936 and from 1937 it was run by the Associated British Cinemas and was renamed the ABC in 1961. By the late 1980s the establishment was run by Cannon Cinemas. Many pop groups appeared on its stage, including the Beatles (twice in 1963) and the Rolling Stones. It closed in 1988 and shops were constructed on the site the following year.

Interior of the Theatre Royal

The Regal Cinema

The site of the Theatre Royal in 2020