Avon Theater

319 S. Michigan Street,
South Bend, IN 46601

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Strand / Avon

I finally found some information on this old theater after extensively searching the web and getting nowhere. By luck, I found mention of this theater while going through the South Bend Civic Theater’s website. It turns out that a downtown development firm called Downtown South Bend, Inc. owns the old Avon building and is either giving it or selling it to the South Bend Civic Theater group.

Sadly, it sounds like the South Bend Civic Theater group is going to raze the Avon Theater and build two new theaters on the spot including a little 100-150 seat theater and a larger 300 seat theater. At least they’re using the land for a theater, though. I emailed the director of the South Bend Civic Theater group and he provided me with this information. I also learned from him that the Avon Theater does have a newer roof and one re-enforced side wall but that the interior is in lousy condition.

The Strand Theater opened on May 12, 1926 with May McAvoy in “"The Road to Glory”. It was equipped with a Kimball organ. It was originally built as a movie house, was outfitted for sound in 1929. On October 12, 1946 it was renamed Avon Theater following refurbishment. It ceased operations as a theater in the late-1960’s or early-1970’s. It remained vacant until November 2012, when it was demolished. The façade was saved to be used in another building.

Contributed by William Harvey

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

npmolnar on August 15, 2006 at 5:50 am

A recent photo of the Avon, complete with Wendy Jo Martin’s mural of South Bend, can be seen at the South Bend Area Blog. (Permalink http://www.realst8.com/blog/?p=77 )

Philmagic on October 16, 2008 at 7:35 am

The current plan for the AVON Theatre building is for the South Bend Public Library, in the same block. Will purchase the building and raze it along with surrounding buildings for an expansion and parking garage facility. The plan has been delayed currently due to funding issues within local government tax roles. You can read about some of these plans in the public report…
View link

jimvid on December 10, 2008 at 9:40 am

here are 2 recent photos of the Avon:
View link

Sontaran6 on January 18, 2009 at 4:08 pm

The Avon was an upscale “art” theatre (spelled with a terminal “-re”) while I was an undergraduate at Notre Dame in the 1950s. It mostly showed “foreign films,” not regular movies. It aimed to attract patrons who would not condescend to visit the many other theaters in town — and it largely succeeded, which is why only professors and snobs knew it was open for business. Its regular clientele consisted of folks who liked to imagine they were in New York or Paris. If an ND undergrad’s date was a foreign-language or fine arts major from St. Mary’s College, he might suffer going there too, occasionally. :–)

kevyzim on July 8, 2009 at 4:15 am

Does anyone have any updates about the fate of this theatre. I remember it as a kid growing up in South Bend in the 60’s as being that place that my parents would hurry by for fear I would ask what the movies they were showing were. I seem to have a vague memory of one of them being “I am Curious (Yellow).” Would love to hear any updates!

figaro14 on August 31, 2009 at 4:42 pm

I can say with great certainty that the Avon was still in operation in the early 1970’s. I was a student at IU South Bend and also worked at the neighboring State Theatre from 1970 – 1972. We all had a reciprocal agreement with the other theaters that employees could see any films at any of the South Bend theatres. In the early to mid-1960’s the Avon when through a period where they showed “soft-core” European porno films, not porno by today’s standards by any means, but adult films nonetheless. In the late-1960’s they returned to showing commercial films, but with a focus on independent or smaller art films. I remember seeing I am Curious Yellow there as well as all of Woody Allen’s early films like Take the Money and Run and Bananas.

I’m not certain when it officially closed, but it was still in operation in 1972.

coolate on October 11, 2011 at 7:59 am

rpatnaude, Who were you in contact with about the property? It seems the city still owns it. I think the Library is to broke to make a parking lot right now, but who knows. It is a great location, and I am interested in reopening it.

SouthBend on October 13, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Update on the Avon: Looks like it is going to be destroyed by the new owners. The St. Joseph County Library bought it and is going to level it for a parking lot. The community has tried to stop them, but I don’t think it will be saved. There is a FB group: Save the Avon Theatre downtown South Bend if you would like to follow.

sam siklas
sam siklas on September 13, 2013 at 7:52 pm

The Avon Theater was demolished in November of 2012. Luckily, the Terra-cotta portion of the from facade were saved for reuse on or in another building.

rivest266 on January 20, 2019 at 9:58 am

This opened as the Strand on May 12th, 1946 and reopened as Avon on October 12th, 1949. Both grand opening ads posted. Avon theatre openingAvon theatre opening Tue, Oct 11, 1949 – 23 · The South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Saint Joseph, Indiana, United States of America) · Newspapers.com

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