Avalon Regal Theater

1645 E. 79th Street,
Chicago, IL 60649

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Avalon Theatre

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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 South Cornell Avenue and 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.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft, Ray Martinez

Recent comments (view all 74 comments)

Scott
Scott on October 21, 2014 at 7:36 pm

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.

whtesoxfan56
whtesoxfan56 on November 3, 2014 at 8:13 pm

I visited this theater on the Saturday of the Open House Chicago weekend, and was the last person to come in to visit that day, plus to leave when they locked it up that day. Dunno if you got lucky BobbyS, but it was a challenge to shoot pics in the auditorium IMO, due to the fact some of the lights that are supposed to illuminate the theater were sadly not on. I couldn’t even get one smart phone shot off on my phone inside the auditorium, and only could get phone shots off in the lobby. Also unfortunately, the balcony wasn’t open either.

But it was a very enjoyable visit, and I hope the new owner is able to reopen this theater at some point, even if not by fall 2015(guy locking the theater up for the day when I left, said that was the goal of the new owner). For myself, it was my first visit here in over 20 years(once did a school field trip here to see something(can’t remember what), back in the early 90s), and I really hope so darn much this theater doesn’t face the same decaying fate as the Palace Theater(another John Eberson theater) in Gary where it becomes nearly impossible to save, 20 miles east.

whtesoxfan56
whtesoxfan56 on November 29, 2014 at 12:10 am

Anyway, my album of Open House Chicago 2014 pics. Not all pics are up yet(Saturday stuff is except for one pic, as of now the only things I’ve uploaded so far. a lot, lot more to come….), and the Regal Theater pics are towards the end of the album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/prfsnlwannabe/sets/72157647007243464

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on April 1, 2015 at 3:10 pm

The new owners of the New Regal/Avalon Theatre in Chicago are trying to reopen the theater as a performing arts center. They’ve launched a crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter to raise the remaining $100,000 needed to open the theater.

You can contribute to the kickstarter campaign here: Resurrecting the Legendary New Regal Theater

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on April 7, 2015 at 12:21 am

Article from this morning. Copy and paste to view.

http://www.citylab.com/design/2015/04/resurrecting-one-of-chicagos-most-endangered-landmarks/389739/

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on February 17, 2016 at 3:17 pm

Potential venue for hologram concerts now.

https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20160217/south-shore/hologram-concerts-of-dead-legends-could-be-next-life-for-new-regal-theater

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on March 15, 2017 at 2:08 am

Update on the new Avalon Regal Theater.

http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/kapos-new-life-for-new-regal/amp/

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on June 17, 2017 at 12:48 am

Set to reopen October 1st.

http://chicagoist.com/2017/06/16/a_chicago_theater_will_start_hostin.php?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily+Chicagoist+Daily+Trump+Claims+Chicago+Is+Worse+Than+War-Torn+Places+In+Middle+East&utm_content=Daily+Chicagoist+Daily+Trump+Claims+Chicago+Is+Worse+Than+War-Torn+Places+In+Middle+East+CID_ecdcf602e19b62b722403a3747ee4f72&utm_source=CM&utm_term=Iconic+Avalon+Regal+Theater+Will+Specialize+In+Hologram+Shows+Starting+This+Fall

Khnemu
Khnemu on August 5, 2017 at 10:36 pm

The new website for the Avalon Regal Theater is: http://www.regaltheater.org/ It looks like the creator of the new website for the Avalon Regal is combining the history of the Avalon/New Regal with the original Regal Theater in Bronzeville, which was demolished in 1973.

The name of this theater needs to be updated to Avalon Regal Theater.

Khnemu
Khnemu on November 19, 2017 at 8:52 pm

The Avalon Regal hasn’t reopened as of yet, doesn’t look like it will be anytime soon after reading this article from the Chicago Tribune:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-avalon-regal-theater-vacancy-order-20171025-story.html

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