Avon Theatre

2603 Santa Ana Street,
South Gate, CA 90280

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The book “South Gate 1776-1976” published by the Bicentennial Heritage Committee notes that the Avon Theatre opened in the late-1920’s. However they may have mis-stated the time frame. The Committee says it was the Avon Theatre first and was later known as the Gem Theatre. The Daily Theater Guide of the Los Angeles Times shows the opposite: it was first the Gem Theatre and later the Avon Theatre.

On March 28, 1949 the South Gate Daily Press-Tribune reported on the demise of William L. Allen, 54, of the Avon Theatre. The Los Angeles Times and Long Beach Independent also carried the story of his suicide at his Torrance home. He left salary checks for his employees and operating instructions for his brother Robert to continue the operation of the Avon Theatre.

The news stirred up the business community of South Gate who assumed the deceased was one of the well-known Allen brothers who ran South Lyn Theatres. A.E. Allen heard the news first and he called Lawrence W. Allen, his brother, who said “Nope. It can’t be me, I’m just sitting down for breakfast". The brothers said that they didn’t know William L. Allen and were dumbfounded by the mix-up. This story rated at least two follow-up stories in the Tribune with the Allen brothers proclaiming to the community that they were still very much alive and kicking. It was decided the commonality of the Allen name and the operation of a movie theater was the reason for the misunderstanding. From 1947 to 1960 South Lyn Theatres listed in the LA Times at one time or another were the Allen Theatre, Arden Theatre, Compton Theatre, Lakewood Theatre, Lynwood Theatre, Nobel Theatre, and Vogue Theatre, but no Avon Theatre.

According to a May 1950 article in the LA Times, the Allen Theatres Corp. had operated the Avon Theatre since 1940. The Times reported that Allen Theatres was suing eight major film distributors for $1,419,600 because they had been 90 to 126 days behind other theaters in obtaining first run films. No follow up to the suit could be found, however Box-office Magazine noted on October 14, 1950, that Bob Allen had sold the theatre.

The Avon Theatre’s listings in the Independent Theatre Guide of the Times continued until April of 1952 and then disappeared. The Film Daily Yearbook of 1950-51 listed the Avon Theatre with 480 seats. The Los Angeles Times reported in January of 1979 that land clearance and demolition had begun for the South Gate Plaza Shopping Center, which was adjacent to the theater. The Avon Theatre would have been located at what is most recently the fenced off vacant lot in front of the Burger King on Long Beach Boulevard.

Contributed by Ron Pierce
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