1 Casino Way,
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A truly classic movie palace, situated in Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, just 22 miles off the coast from Los Angeles. The Avalon Theatre opened on May 29, 1929 with Douglas Fairbanks in “The Iron Mask”. It is located in the Casino Building, built by chewing gum magnet William Wrigley Jnr, and is located beneath the Casino Ballroom. The building was never intended for or used as a casino, but for dancing (which in the era of the ‘big bands’ attracted the likes of Benny Goodman – the King of Swing' to play here to 2,000 capacity dancers. The outer lobby of the building has eight ‘Atlantis’ inspired tiled mural panels, the work of John Gabriel Beckman, who decorated the entire Avalon Theatre in an Atmospheric style. There are painted murals on the side-walls depicting a noble savage hunting deer with a bow & arrow, as a few Franciscan monks arrive by galleon surrounded by stylized hillsides. The rear wall has painted murals of birds and monkeys.
Above the rounded proscenium arch is a re-creation of Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”, whilst on the asbestos safety curtain is painted “Flight of Fancy Westward”, depicting a primitive surfer boy riding the crest of a wave, superimposed on a background of the map of the island. The silver leaf ceiling is made to glow in shades of pink and violet by colored lights hidden behind a low wall surrounding the auditorium.
The Avalon Theatre is equipped with a Page 4 manual 16 rank theatre organ, built by the Page Organ Co. of Lima, Ohio. It is still in working order and is played regularly at film performances on weekends only. Films played daily every evening of the week and were a mix of first run and classic silent movies. The complex is still owned by the Wrigley family who keep the building well maintained.
The Avalon Theatre was closed on December 31, 2019 with Dwayne Johnson in “Jumanji:The Next Level”. The Santa Catalina Island Company citing “operating costs are too expensive and hinder their ‘good business strategy’. It will be maintained as a special events facility, occasional screenings of silent movies and for the Catalina Film Festival and will be available to hire. Tours of the Casino Building and the Avalon Theatre will be available. There was an online petition to reopen the building which gained over 5,000 signatures in 4 days.
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