A weekly look at SoCal life covering news, arts and culture, and more.
Hosted by John Rabe
Arts & Entertainment

Downtown LA gets another restored theater: The Regent

The sign at downtown LA's Regent theater
The sign at downtown LA's Regent theater
Katherine Garrova
The sign at downtown LA's Regent theater
The piano in the Love Song Bar at Downtown LA's Regent theater. Owner Mitchell Frank says they found it during restoration work.
Katherine Garrova
The sign at downtown LA's Regent theater
The Regent Theater's opening weekend marquee.
Katherine Garrova
The sign at downtown LA's Regent theater
The view from the mezzanine at The Regent. Upstairs used to be the projection booth for grindhouse movies.
Katherine Garrova

Listen to story

Download this story 5MB

Downtown Los Angeles's renaissance continues with the restoration of yet another theater: The Regent has been brought back by club owner Mitchell Frank.

But if you live in L.A. and go to concerts, chances are you've already been to one of Frank's clubs. Frank and his partners made venues like the Echo, Echoplex and Spaceland into L.A. music mainstays.

Last weekend, Frank opened The Regent. But what will set it apart from his other L.A. spots? 

"Because it is so much larger, you can't just do a small local band and expect to fill the room with 200 people," Frank said.

He sees the Regent as stop number three for bands that work their way up from playing the Echo and Spaceland. 

Situated in downtown's rapidly revitalizing Historic Core, Frank says the Regent will serve as more of a downtown-centric stage, distinguishing it from his other venues in Silver Lake and Echo Park. 

Built in 1914, the Regent came with plenty of history — and cleanup work.

"Ended up downtown crawling through rat crap and pigeon crap and dead rats... I pretty much went through every theater downtown and this was my favorite," Frank said.

Up until the '90s, the Regent served as a grindhouse theater — a detail Frank playfully pays homage to in the bathrooms, which have semi-nudes pasted on the walls.

But putting aside Frank's love of the old place, does it make business sense to restore a decaying theater like the Regent?

"I'm hoping it does. My partners are for sure hoping it does," said Frank. "But I feel like the problem is, if you just kill all the old buildings and build these monstrosities... there is no art, you've killed the art of downtown Los Angeles."

If you check out a show at the Regent, you won't have to go far to eat and drink. Frank christened the Prufrock Pizzeria and Love Song Bar last weekend, and you can grab a drink next to an old piano which was discovered at the theater during the restoration. Prufrock? Love Song? Who's the T.S. Eliot fan? That would be Mitchell Frank. 

"This is kind of like our way to be able to dedicate the space and the name to all the frustrated poets turned musicians and singer-songwriters," he said.