New Regal Theatre

1645 E. 79th Street,
Chicago, IL 60649

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Avalon Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Avalon Theatre opened on August 29th, 1927, 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 79th Street between South Cornell Avenue and East End Avenue, in the South Shore neighborhood. It became part of the Warner Brothers circuit during the 1930’s and 1940’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 last 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.

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.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft, Ray Martinez

Recent comments (view all 72 comments)

RickB
RickB on January 17, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Shots of five endangered Chicago palaces—including this one—and a Roger Ebert essay. Chicago Magazine

Dan Matson
Dan Matson on March 22, 2013 at 3:42 am

It’s up for sale Not sure if the listing was updated or first posted yesterday.

http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/17988180/1645-55-East-79th-Street-Chicago-IL/

DaveM
DaveM on March 23, 2013 at 8:22 am

This has been listed on and off for months. The update reflects that the price has been cut from $500k to $100k(!) Very sad. Property records indicate the seller is the FDIC. I haven’t been in the theater since the late 80s just after its restoration by the Gardner family, but back then it was in spectacular condition. This is a close second to the Loew’s Paradise as my favorite theater.

JudithK
JudithK on August 21, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Would love to visit the New Regal Theatre; an audience is definitely waiting for a resolution on this story.

DaveM
DaveM on August 21, 2013 at 6:43 pm

From David Roeder’s column in today’s Sun-Times:

A buyer has emerged for the landmark New Regal Theater at 1645 E. 79th St. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which has marketed the 2,250-seat auditorium for the eye-catching price of $99,000, said through spokesman Greg Hernandez that U.S. Equities Realty, its broker, has found a potential purchaser and is in the “due diligence” stage to determine if it can close a deal.

Hernandez declined further comment. The FDIC got the property through a bank failure. The last person to operate the theater was Regina Evans, the former Country Club Hills police chief, who booked some shows there but defaulted on her loans. She’s now due to be sentenced in a fraud scheme involving state job-training grants tied to the theater.

RickB
RickB on March 5, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Sold for $100,000 to a company called Community Capital Investment, whose plans for the theater are unknown. DNAInfo story here.

DaveM
DaveM on July 19, 2014 at 11:43 am

The Avalon will be open as part of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House Chicago on October 18 and 19, 2014: http://www.openhousechicago.org/site/396/

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on October 14, 2014 at 6:32 am

$100,000 isn’t much money for such a big real estate deal. That’s not a positive sign.

And I really don’t understand why so much money was used to build a new Black performing arts center on the site of the old Regal Theater. The timing of the project was horrible, as both performing arts and film presentation aren’t what they used to be, and it created competition for the New Regal after so much money was spent to make it beautiful again. Neither facility has fared well:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Washington_Cultural_Center

I hope there is a good ending to all this. But right now I don’t see it.

BobbyS
BobbyS on October 18, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Went to the open house today. A stunning theater. Beautiful! Many people showed up with cameras. Theatre well lit. Marquee not on. I could see how the Paradise was influenced by this theatre. Lobby very similar minus the statues of the Paradise and all the detail of course. But the outer lobby & boxoffice & doors brought back many memories of the movie palace on crawford ave. The parking lot next door was not in use. Locked up with grass growing between the concrete. Parking on the side street only. I wish new owners plenty of luck when it re-opens. Neighborhhod is definetly a challenge.

Scott
Scott on October 21, 2014 at 11:36 am

It never occurred to me before but I suppose there are a number of similarities between the Avalon (New Regal) and the Paradise. I’m sure the same could be said about the now-defunct Capitol, also on Chicago’s south side. Since the New Regal is the only remaining Eberson theatre in Chicago it would be very sad if it is torn down at some point. Hopefully they can make it work.

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