THE new manager of the Regent Centre in Christchurch has promised to inject fresh vitality into the venue and oversee cosmetic improvements to the building.

Greg Rawlings, a former Pontins Blue Coat who grew up in the area, joined the centre two weeks ago after supervising the conversion of the former Moderne cinema, Winton, into a multi-purpose conference centre.

His remit at the Regent is to continue the work started by his predecessor, Eliot Walker, who is leaving to manage the Citygate conference centre in Bournemouth.

Mr Rawlings stressed he wants to maintain the theatre’s atmosphere, which is largely run by volunteers, but is keen to explore the possibility of broadening the range of events offered to appeal to a younger audience.

“I am not looking to change things that are clearly working,” he said.

“The cinema has gone from strength to strength and the satellite broadcasts of arts events around the world are particularly popular.”

These broadcasts have shown opera from New York, ballet in Moscow and in April an Elton John performance live from Las Vegas is scheduled.

He added that he also wants to bring stand-up comedians and more original music acts to the stage.

However, it is the changes to the building that will be most noticeable, with the foyer being re-decorated in the art deco style of the Regent’s 1930’s heritage and the installation of 28 additional seats to bring the theatre’s capacity up to 488.

The ‘tired’ frontage will also be given a facelift.

Mr Rawlings said: “It is such a wonderful gem in the community and a vital part of the cultural scene.”