426 N. Water Street,
3 people favorited this theater
Architects: R.O. Rosen
News About This Theater
- Jan 18, 2011 — Decatur theater dumps 3D
The Avon Theatre opened November 28, 1916 with Thomas Dixon in “The Fall of a Nation”. It was one of the most lavish theatres in Decatur, and considered by many a waste at the time, because it was built specifically for movies, which were considered in those days only a fad which would soon pass. To address these concerns, the theatre had a small stage for the occasional live performance or concert.
However, movies were here to stay and the Avon Theatre became one of the most popular theatres in Decatur, rivalling the Lincoln Square Theatre, built the same year, and the older Empress Theatre.
It had one of the largest screens of any theatre outside Chicago when it opened. Its opulent décor featured fancy plasterwork, sculpture (a nude reclining goddess holding out a crown of laurel was at the top of the proscenium arch), and unusual lighting fixtures in the shape of lion’s heads which were found in the auditorium.
In the early-1950s, the Avon Theatre was considered outdated, and following a collapse of part of the auditorium ceiling received an unfortunate ‘modernization’, which destroyed much of the splendid original decoration. Also, a wide screen for Panavision and 3D films was added in front of the old one, covering up the old little stage and orchestra pit area, as well as the goddess sculpture.
The Avon Theatre hung on, slowly declining until the mid-1980’s, when it finally was forced to close. It opened briefly again in 1993 as a second-run house, but closed again after less than a year. It remained empty another six years, before receiving a much needed restoration by its current owners, and reopened in 1999, screening art and foreign films, as well as the occasional mainstream hit. In the last few years, the owners have turned adjacent former storefronts into two smaller screens, making the Avon Theatre a triplex.
The Avon Theatre is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of its original owner, who even after selling the theatre in the 1960’s, maintained an office upstairs, where he eventually died.
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