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 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 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 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. 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.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft, Ray Martinez

Recent comments (view all 73 comments)

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:

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:

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

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 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.

whtesoxfan56 on November 3, 2014 at 12:13 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 on November 28, 2014 at 4:10 pm

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:

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on April 1, 2015 at 7:10 am

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 on April 6, 2015 at 4:21 pm

Article from this morning. Copy and paste to view.

DavidZornig on February 17, 2016 at 7:17 am

Potential venue for hologram concerts now.

DavidZornig on March 14, 2017 at 7:08 pm

Update on the new Avalon Regal Theater.

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