Avalon Regal Theater
1645 E. 79th Street,
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The Avalon Theatre opened on August 29th, 1927 with Douglas MacLean in “Soft Cushions” on the screen and on stage a musical presentation “Dreams of Araby” performed by Bobby Fisher. With over 2,500-seats, the theatre is famous for its elaborate and exotic interior, which was designed in Middle Eastern style by John Eberson (who also designed the long-lost Paradise Theatre, in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood) for the Cooney Brothers circuit. The Avalon Theatre stands on E. 79th Street between S. Cornell Avenue and S. East End Avenue, in the South Shore neighborhood. It became part of the Warner Brothers circuit during the 1930’s when stage productions were dropped, and they operated it as a full-time movie theatre into the 1940’s and 1950’s.
Its fantastic decor included an Atmospheric style auditorium with a star-filled deep blue sky and a Persian bazaar on the side walls. Hanging from the soaring lobby ceiling is what was once described as the largest oriental rug ever made, a flying carpet if you will.
Additionally, there are five huge murals in the lobby, which were made of tiny inlaid mosaic tiles, and a giant stage, which is guarded by four menacing gargoyles. The theatre also once contained a 3/15 Wurlitzer theatre organ.
After closing as a movie house in the late-1970’s, the theatre became home to the Miracle Temple Church, but in 1987, was reborn as a performing arts venue. During this conversion, the theatre was returned to its original appearance and renamed the New Regal Theatre, in honor of Chicago’s legendary original Regal Theatre, which was razed after a fire severely damaged it in the early-1970’s. In June 1992 the New Regal Theatre was designated a Chicago landmark.
After years of low attendance, and often standing dark for long stretches of time, the New Regal Theatre’s management announced that the great former movie palace would be closing at the end of June 2003.
Luckily, after three years closure, this landmarked treasure was rescued once more, and didn’t meet the fate of its fabled namesake over three decades ago. The New Regal Theatre re-opened in October 2007 as a venue for concerts and other live performances, with the “New” portion of the theater’s name gone. It is totally black owned and managed by a non-profit organization ‘We Are Our Brother’s Keeper’. It was closed in 2010 when the operators were made bankrupt. The building was purchased by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
It is set to re-opened October 1, 2017 as the Avalon Regal Theater.
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