New owner announced for St Helens Theatre Royal
St Helens Theatre Royal is under new ownership.
Regal Entertainments has managed the day-to-day running of the Corporation Street venue for 22 years, but has now taken over ownership from the Theatre Royal Charitable Trust for an undisclosed fee. The structure will remain the same.
The announcement comes ahead of tomorrow’s World Theatre Day (Saturday March 27).
Regal Entertainments is led by theatrical powerhouse mother and daughter duo, creative director Jane Joseph and director and theatre general manager Chantelle Nolan.
They took over tenancy of the popular St Helens playhouse in 1999, working in partnership with the Theatre Royal Charitable Trust which had owned the venue freehold since 1986 until the sale.
For more than two decades Jane and Chantelle have strengthened and continued to build the theatre’s professional reputation and standing within the industry, going on to attract household names and national touring shows each season.
They also produce all the venue’s in-house productions, which includes three seasonal pantos directed by Chantelle and a stage play each year.
The theatre purchase now means that Regal Entertainments is now entirely responsible for the building, interior and exterior. The Theatre Royal Charitable Trust will remain active and continue to fundraise for the building and develop arts in the community.
St Helens Theatre Royal was designed by celebrated theatre architect Frank Matcham and opened its doors in 1901, replacing the Theatre Royal and Opera House which had stood on the same site until it was destroyed by fire in 1899.
In 1964, the current theatre was gutted and extensively remodelled and modernised, with the addition of a glass façade.
Like all theatres nationwide, St Helens Theatre Royal has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
As part of the venue’s response to the pandemic, Regal Entertainments launched a new theatre annual membership scheme in July 2020. As a result of the three national lockdowns, Regal Entertainments has also taken a number of its popular pantomimes online to ensure families don’t miss out and can enjoy the shows from the safety of their own homes.
Jane Joseph said: “St Helens Theatre Royal is a very special place for the Regal Entertainments team, myself, Chantelle, and our families.
“It’s a hub of colour, singing, laughter and life, and it holds a very dear place in our hearts. We’ve successfully steered the theatre on a path of adventure and rediscovery for the past 22 years and we’re extremely excited for this new chapter.
“We’d like to thank the Theatre Royal Charitable Trust and Friends of the Theatre for their ongoing support and look forward to everything we can achieve together in the future.”
Chantelle Nolan said: “During our time managing the theatre we have always reinvested any profits back into the venue, and this will remain the case.
“The pandemic has proved extremely challenging, but we’ve still managed to find positives by launching our new Theatre Royal Family annual membership scheme and streaming our much-loved pantomimes online – this has been extremely important in keeping the St Helens Theatre Royal name and magical memories created at the forefront of people’s minds when it comes to returning to live theatre.”
Nick Wilding, chair of the Theatre Royal Charitable Trust, said: “Regal Entertainments has efficiently run the theatre for more than 20 years. Jane and Chantelle understand what audiences want and provide an excellent programme of entertainment so we’re delighted with the news.
“We’re also keen to reassure everybody that the charity will continue, and it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to focus on fulfilling some of our other charitable aims and objectives. The Trust is confident that the wonderful Victorian St Helens Theatre Royal, a Frank Matcham theatre and ‘a precious old lady in the town’, is very much in safe hands.”
Enid Pennington, chair of the Friends of the Theatre Royal, said: “We send our very best wishes to Jane, Chantelle and the team on their new venture. We are looking forward to supporting them in their continued efforts to make St Helens Theatre Royal a welcoming place of entertainment.”
In October, St Helens Theatre Royal was successful in its bid for funds from the Government’s COVID-19 Culture Recovery Fund, administered by Arts Council England. The funding will support the venue in adapting to provide socially distanced performances and improving facilities at the venue.
Fergal O’Cleirigh, partner and head of law firm Bermans’ property team, provided legal advice to Regal Entertainments.