Avon Cinema

260 Thayer Street,
Providence, RI 02906

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rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 29, 2015 at 11:48 am

The Theatre Historical Society archive has the MGM Theatre Report for the Avon; it’s Card # 539. There is an exterior photo taken April 1941. It’s at 260 Thayer St., and the condition is Good. It was opened in 1938, shows MGM product, and has 519 seats. The 1940 population of Providence was 253,500.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 29, 2010 at 3:25 am

Great promotion of a film!

From Boxoffice magazine, June 17, 1950:

‘Bicycle Thief’ Stunt Brings SRO Business

Providence – A younthful bicyclist, wearing false nose and glasses and a sign on his back reading, “Who is ‘The Bicycle Thief’ at the Avon Cinema?” created so much excitement in downtown Providence that local police stepped in and halted the stunt.

The result, however, was more publicity for the picture than Charles R. Darby, Avon Cinema manager, had bargained for. In addition, there were such crowds storming the Avon that standing room only signs were up early before each performance.

Darby hired the youth to simply ride the bicycle through town wearing the costume and sign, hoping that he would attract attention. He attracted so much attention that a traffic jam was narrowly averted only when police stepped in and stopped the cyclist.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 29, 2010 at 2:53 am

The Avon Cinema in the aftermath of the blizzard of 1978. Article from Boxoffice magazine, February 13, 1978:

What happened to Ken Dulgarian, manager of the Avon Cinema, Providence, during a recent weekend storm could well make for story-line of a screen project. The cinema screened Warner Bros.‘ “Casablanca” plus “Flesh Gordon” that weekend; advertised was Paramount’s “Barbarella,” 1968 release. It was learned that the Paramount exchange in Boston found another film in the can that was supposed to contain “Barbarella,” and, as a result, Dulgarian continued his engagement of “Casablanca.” On Friday, Dulgarian, cognizant of the heavy snow, hired a limousine to get from his home to the theatre. There was nary a taxi to be had. As matters wended their way, the short ride expanded to two-and-a-half hours; Dulgarian picked up his projectionist on his way. An “almost sold-out” house that night, an evening when the competition either was shut down or played to skimpy numbers, brought out ever-loyal Avon Cinema patrons indeed! He showed “Casablanca” and “The Maltese Falcon” Saturday. “Barbarella?” It’ll be along!

[Note: in those years the Avon was a repertory cinema showing revivals of both classics and more recent films with several changes of programs a week.]

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 27, 2010 at 2:57 am

Item in Boxoffice magazine, March 23, 1957:

Edward C. Stokes has been named manager of the Avon Cinema, east side art house, replacing Nelson Wright, who resigned to enter the automobile business…The R.I. premiere of “Manon” took place at the Avon.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 22, 2010 at 3:50 am

Long run for Never on Sunday. Item in Boxoffice magazine, July 10, 1961:
“The Avon Cinema, which broke all boxoffice records when it showed "Never on Sunday” for the seventh straight week, did not quit there. It announced the movie was being carried for its eighth week."

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 19, 2010 at 11:45 am

“The Avon Cinema management took quick advantage of the front page publicity anent the battle between the Providence board of censors and the Playhouse [on Westminster Street] over the staging of "Tobacco Road” by bringing back the screen version of the Broadway hit. On the same program was “Grapes of Wrath”…[Note: both directed by John Ford.] —-item in Boxoffice magazine, January 17, 1953.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 11, 2010 at 5:35 am

From Boxoffice Magazine, December 2, 1950:
“Employees of the Avon Cinema had plenty of cause to be thankful on Thanksgiving. Charles R. Darby, manager, presented every employee a big plump turkey! Recently Darby scored with plenty of well-planned publicity on his twin bill of "The King’s Jester” and “Pagliacci.” The city has a large Italian population and Darby arranged a quiz program on a local radio station offering guest tickets. “The Red Shoes,” which ran for eight weeks at the Avon some time ago, has been scheduled for a return engagement."

theauteur on March 15, 2010 at 3:39 pm

I recently was invited down by Richard Dulgarian to work the Carbon Arc Projectors, which are the original projectors in operation since 1938. I might be taking on the Saturday projection shift at the theater. It is a beautiful single screen movie house that still holds onto movie magic. One of Richard’s tests for projectionists is “the start up” or when the show begins. The curtains are closed, you fire up the carbon arc, turn on the motor to the projector, open up the dowser, start the change over so the image spills onto the curtain, and then you open up the curtain…so you never see the projection screen without the magical carbon arc light hitting it. Its part of the magic of Cinema.

nritota on January 29, 2010 at 6:16 pm

The ladder used to be kept outside in the alley on the opposite side of the building. In the 60’s we used to have a spotter to prevent Brown & RISD kids from toppling the ladder while you were up there!

TLSLOEWS on December 22, 2009 at 11:04 am

Cool Nick.I have changed a few in my time too.

nritota on December 21, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Ichanged that marquee more times than I can remember 40 years ago!

TLSLOEWS on December 9, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Nice looking Marquee,very old school.

tnesi on March 4, 2009 at 11:02 am

Providence Business News recently ran a story about the Avon today:


nritota on April 3, 2008 at 4:19 am


Agreed; I meant the modern conversion to art format. I worked for L&G and SBC for almost 15 years (see other posts) and, from the exhibition side of the business, found this house an oddity.

I think that stating they didn’t have concessions because they considered themselves par with legit theatre may be a stretch. This is one of the smallest single screens (area wise, not seat)that I have been around. Considering the time frame built, it really was an odd configuration.

As for more screens, I think that is a romantic vision of this difficult business; one that I have been accused of many times. The cost/benefit would be hard to prove out, even for a family that owns the real estate. The existing house would have to live up to todays codes: elevators, sprinklers, ADA, etc, which causes even large companies distress.

Agreed that this is a great little house, but nothing really special. In an age of digital projection with THX as standard new formatting, the Avon is hanging on.


Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 3, 2008 at 3:28 am

Regarding “art house conversion” coming sometime after Love Story, the Avon had been an art house long before that, briefly after its 1938 opening, then throughout the postwar period up to the later 1960s, when it became more mainstream. The 1970s saw it as a repertory cinema (it was renamed “Avon Repertory Cinema”) and showed double bills of generally classy foreign and domestic films with two or three program changes per week, mostly revivals but with some new ones thrown in.

I remember the 1950s and 1960s when the theatre opened every day at 2:00 P.M. and had continuous showings. Admission back then ranged from 75 to 90 cents. There was no snack concession, probably because they considered themselves to be in the same league as a legit theatre, where people don’t buy candy, popcorn or drinks to eat at their seats. Their motto then was “Choice of the Discerning.” I used to go there as a high school student in the 1950s and would buy a couple of candy bars beforehand at the next door Rexall Drugstore to eat during the show.

There was a taint of the forbidden associated with the cinema at that time, because a number of the films that played there were “condemned” by the Catholic Legion of Decency, which were often films of international acclaim. When I was in the seminary, we were expresssly forbidden from attending the Avon during our breaks because of this reputation it had. But many of us went anyway, and so did priests! The quality of the films shown back then was very high. It still is now, pretty much, though sometimes there is daydating with the Showcase Seekonk Route 6. In its heyday, the Avon ran programs that were exclusive to the area and would play almost nowhere else in Rhode Island.

Times have changed. They have a hard time getting large audiences for anything at the Avon any more, though the size is decent on many shows. It may be heresy, but this is a theatre I think would benefit from multiplexing (or add-ons of small auditoriums up top) with three or four smaller cinemas. They could increase their boxoffice, provide a wider variety of films. Many films that we see trailers or posters for never show up. Others remain far too long. Still, it is an indispensable place for many.

nritota on April 2, 2008 at 7:51 pm

I worked at the Avon in the late 60’s when it was sold by Lockwood & Gordon to SBC Theatres. I always hark back to the fact that it had no concession stand for most of its life; only having been added in the late 70’s if memory serves me correctly.

The restrooms were upstairs (no elevator) where there was a tiny booth and managers office. I can remember us selling out Love Story at 550 seats, long before the art house conversion.

If I remember correctly, the Dulgarians refused to renew the SBC lease at expiration and took over the operation themselves.

No parking, no concession stand and a box-office the size of a 1950’s ranch home closet…what a concept!

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 8, 2008 at 1:23 pm

Films about classical composers as well as opera films were very popular here in the 1940s and 1950s especially. Here is a DOUBLE BILL of Lucia di Lamermoor and Rossini scheduled for November 1949, after a revival run of the Marx Brothers' duo Animal Crackers and Duck Soup.

mp775 on January 6, 2008 at 8:23 am

The façade above the marquee is covered in graffiti. Sad.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 28, 2007 at 2:52 am

A big selection of exterior and interior photos of the Avon, including the projection booth, can be seen if you CLICK HERE.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on February 2, 2007 at 3:51 am

Delightful event here last night! I saw the 1926 German animation masterpiece, The Adventures of Prince Achmed of Lotte Reiniger, the first full-length animation film ever made. No computer graphics here. The entire thing was done with stop-action photography of cardboard and metal cutouts positioned in front of illuminated sheets of glass. Took her three years, and the results are dazzling. Everything is in silhouette. The story line is based on tales from The Arabian Nights and has a wicked sorcerer, Prince Achmed on a magical horse, a beautiful princess, demons, a genie in a lamp. Some of the scenes are eye-popping. (Get it on DVD.)

The Silk Road Ensemble accompanied the 35mm film showing with an original score composed for both Eastern and Western instruments. The ensemble is part of a program envisioned by renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma. The Silk Road Project, with artists in residence at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) brings together artists and audiences around the globe. Mr. Ma, whom I’ve seen in concerts several times and whose recordings I have, was in attendance and watched the movie. I was thrilled. He almost stepped on my foot. The screening was sold out and the house was packed. Gratifying.

Pic 1
Pic 2

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on November 24, 2006 at 8:44 am

Jeremy, I have encountered no documentation or ads showing that those films you mention were shown at the Avon, or in our area. There was no Stanley or Cameo in Rhode Island that programmed Russian films routinely. Any that showed up on local screens during that period would have been rare exceptions. That is not to say there weren’t screenings by private organizations or at Brown University, for example. Moscow Strikes Back might have filled out bills in regular mainstream theatres, since it was distributed by Republic Pictures and had Edward G. Robinson as the narrator! Heroic Leningrad was distributed by Paramount. So I would guess they filled out wartime programs in some regular theatres across the country, especially in major cities.

JeremyHicks on November 24, 2006 at 5:11 am

I was fascinated by the discussion of ‘Professor Mamlock’ and ‘Mashenka’ here. I am researching the reception of Russian films in the West in this period and had no idea either had reached Rhode Island. ‘Mashenka’ enjoyed a 5 week run in December 1942 at New York’s Stanley, which showed a lot of Russian films. I would be interested to know whther the Avon screened any of the Soviet wartime documentaries such as ‘Moscow Strikes Back’(which won an Oscar), ‘The Siege of Leningrad’ or ‘Heroic Stalingrad.’ The latter also ran into censorship problems, as the League of Catholic Decency objected to its depiction of Nazi atrocities.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 26, 2006 at 10:50 am

The Dulgarian family runs it as a prestige venture and owns the entire block of real estate, indeed much other real estate in Providence. Even if it lost money, I’d hope they would continue the operation…although the College Hill Bookstore, at the corner of the Avon’s block, was shut down not too long ago because of declining business. Everyone hopes it is not an omen for the Avon. The theatre gets very decent though not huge audiences for most of its offerings and the owners are aware of the enormous good-will generated by this theatre…plus off-shoot business in the nearby shops and restaurants. The Avon is the oldest movie theatre in Providence that is still showing movies on a regular basis. It is one of the three single-screen movie theatres in Rhode Island that are still regularly showing movies: the other two are the Cable Car Cinema in Providence and the Jane Pickens Theatre in Newport. Revival House in Westerly is not in the running, being essentially a café with a DVD-projection set-up.

hardbop on April 26, 2006 at 9:09 am

It is nice to read that the Avon is still going strong. It is interesting that the “Poseidon Adventure” played here. Coincidentally, it played in New York last night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s revival screen. I actually saw PA on first run, but I believe it was at a RI (or nearby Massachusetts drive-in).

The only other time I went to the Avon, as best I can recall, besides the Woody Allen film(s) I mentioned above, I caught THE PIANO on first run here back in the early-to-mid 1990s.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on October 8, 2005 at 7:28 am

In May of 1965 the Avon was running the film The Cool World, directed by Shirley Clark and produced by Boston documentarian Frederick Wiseman. It was a harrowing portrayal of Harlem street life in the 1960s. From a distribution point of view it is very interesting to note that the Avon run of the film actually day-dated with showings at Johnston’s Pike Drive-In and the Seekonk Drive-In! The Avon sharing a program with two area drive-ins! So strange. But that was a movie that could appeal to both art house audiences and mass audiences, even youth audiences. So it was a clever marketing move by the distributor, Cinema V.