Tributes for Cinema Owner, Wollongong's Regent Cinema
- Tributes flow for cinema owner
Era ends: The death of Rowena Milgrove owner of Wollongong's Regent
Cinema, has ended a family association with the city's social and
"PEOPLE love getting together with friends to enjoy the movies, it's
such a social get-together."
So reflected the first lady of Wollongong cinema, Rowena Milgrove.
Mrs Milgrove, the owner and manager of Wollongong's Regent Cinema,
died peacefully at her Wollongong home on Sunday morning.
Her death ends the family's historic association with Wollongong's
social and cultural life.
From the once-lavish cocktail parties held in the theatre, to
childhood memories of sitting in the star-filled dome and throwing
Jaffas at the screen, the theatre holds a special place in the
collective memory of Wollongong.
It is one of the state's few remaining picture palaces. The cavernous
auditorium, dim lights and old-style decor might contrast with
today's multiplex cinemas, but most wouldn't have it any other way.
Mrs Milgrove devoted her whole life to the institution.
Up until two weeks ago, she was still darting around behind the
scenes at the theatre, organising film schedules and checking the
But as her staff point out, it was a side of her the public rarely
saw. Mrs Milgrove was always polished, but very private.
"(Journalists) always wanted to interview her for their stories, even
people from overseas, but she always declined. She was a very private
person," her personal assistant, and close friend, Elizabeth Dilevski
"I think she felt like her business was her business. She wasn't
really looking for glory, she was an achiever in her own right."
When the Regent first opened its doors in the late 1950s, it was the
most modern picture theatre in town.
Mrs Milgrove's father Herbert Jones bought the Keira St site in 1934,
but construction was delayed because of financial difficulties and
World War II.
After the closure of the Civic, Savoy and Crown theatres, it was the
only theatre in Wollongong until Greater Union opened in 1976.
In the 38 years she knew her, Mrs Dilevski said Mrs Milgrove always
had the best interests of the theatre at heart.
"I think this just became her life. Working here, somehow after a
while it gets into your blood," Mrs Dilevski said.
"I think that's why the staff got on so well with her, she was never
acting as if she was above them."
But clearly, she wasn't an average blue-collar worker.
She would fly around the world attending movie premieres, was a
regular guest at the Academy Awards and knew countless A-list actors.
Her impeccable appearance even prompted one hotelier to ask whether
she was a movie star herself.
"She was flamboyant, and appearance meant a lot to her. She travelled
the world and she visited a lot of countries. I think she had a very
vibrant and a very interesting life," Mrs Dilevski said.
A Wollongong resident all of her life, she married Dr Edward Leslie
Milgrove, who died several years ago.
Despite her years in the business, she never did quite understand
the "no talking" rule in the cinema.
"She didn't see many movies actually. In the past 10 years we went
about three of four times, and she always thought she could talk all
of the time."
On Thursday, the day of Mrs Milgrove's funeral, the cinema will
remain closed as a mark of respect.
Her staff are also planning a farewell gathering in the theatre, a
fitting place to say goodbye to the first lady of the cinema.
"She loved life and she loved laughter and she enjoyed happy times.
It will be nice to give her a farewell in a place that she loved so
Mrs Milgrove is survived by her nieces and nephew Vanessa, Jenny and