Grand movie theatre from the heydays of Sri Lankan film industry
Colombo’s first cinema saw the light when two students from Jaffna upgraded a metal shed to an actual building. Regal Cinema opened in 1930. Ceylon Theatres went on to be the flagship of Sri Lanka’s fledgling film industry, a prime venue for previews, screenings and film award ceremonies. In the course of its 80-year history, the space also functioned as a theatre, even Queen Elizabeth came to visit when she passed through Colombo.
A newspaper advertisement for the first opening went like this “the Regal cinema will be inaugurated today at 9pm, the doors will be opened at 8pm. His Captive Woman starring Milton Sills and Dorathy Mackail is a talking film. The tickets will be priced at Rs4, Rs3, Rs2, Rs1 and 50 cents.”
The acoustics are phenomenally good. The Regal was the first cinema in the country to showcase ‘talkies’, films with sound. Today the Regal has been surpassed technologically by newer movie houses. But its new surround sound system is not too shabby, and it remains one of the foremost places for screenings of the latest Sri Lankan films. What better place to consume some local pop culture and popcorn than here?
Hollywood legend Gregory Peck visited the Regal in 1954 to see his film The Million Pound Note (and his deliriously screaming fans) right after shooting had wrapped up on The Purple Plain in Ceylon and Burma. See the scene where the depressed & suicidal Squadron leader Bill Forrester (Peck) meets the young and beautiful Anna.