THREATENED: Avalon/New Regal Theater Requires Additional Funding Support to Reopen

The Avalon Regal Theater is one of Chicago’s most extraordinary theaters with exuberant ornament on par with the Uptown Theatre, the Congress Theater, the Oriental Theatre, and the Chicago Theater. The Avalon Regal Theater is the last of the great theaters standing on Chicago’s South Side. Despite being in remarkably good condition, the building has been tied up in building court and mostly dormant since 2010. Jerald Gary, the current owner, has been making progress towards reopening the theater. His plans were given a boost when superstar rapper Kanye West announced his interest in seeing the Avalon Regal Theater reopened and pledged his financial support to the effort. Originally from the South Side, West tweeted out to his 28 million followers, “We’re going to restore the Regal Theatre.”

The Moorish-style Avalon Theater was built in 1927 by movie palace architect John Eberson. Eberson specialized in the design of atmospheric theaters and used lavish ornament inspired by exotic locations to transport the imagination of theater-goers. His vision for the Avalon Theater was said to have been inspired by a Persian incense burner he found at an antique market in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The exuberant tiled lobby floor and ceiling resemble a Persian rug. The ornate lobby mosaics were designed by architect Charles Morgan, who worked with Frank Lloyd Wright on his Chicago projects. The walls and balconies are exquisite with their colorful ornament and arched opening. The 2,500 seat theater auditorium was designed to resemble the buildings of outdoor Moroccan market bazaar with a simulated night sky complete with twinkling star lights. The Avalon Regal Theater was designated a Chicago Landmark on June 17, 1992.

For over a decade, Preservation Chicago has helped to support and advocate for a reopening of the building. We are hopeful that with the right support the Avalon Regal Theater will reopen soon. It’s an incredible Chicago Landmark and could prove to be a hub for performing arts and a powerful economic catalyst for the South Shore neighborhood. We applaud the commitment and efforts of Jerald Gary and hope that Kanye West or other prominent musicians uses their star power and financial resources to support the Avalon Regal Theater.

Using the model of 46th Ward Alderman James Capplemen who lobbied hard for many years before successfully securing significant city funding to help restore the Uptown Theatre, we strongly encourage 8th Ward Alderman Michelle Harris and Commissioner David Reifman to do everything within their power to help secure city funding to support the Avalon Regal Theater.

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