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Washington DC Real Estate Resource Center: Avalon Theatre

The Avalon Theater in Chevy Chase, DC is Washington, DC's oldest continuously operating movie theater. It was Chevy Chase, DC's only movie theater for many years.

The Classic Revival Style movie house, named the Chevy Chase Theatre, opened in 1922 around Christmas time. The Theatre provided 1200 seats for movie goers. A Robert Morgan pipe organ played music to accompany the silent films. Emanuel Stutz from the Chevy Chase Land Company was the original owner.

Many of the Theatre's exterior features included a metal canopy style marquee surrounded by scalloped glass and cresting. The front of the building decorations included Corinthian flattened columns and motifs of rosettes, festoons, leaves and waves. There were arched windows with fluting, floral motifs and rosettes. Once inside, movie goers could see that the lobby ceiling decorations included detailed moldings and medallions. The auditorium was decorated with many of the exterior features. Many of the original inside and outside decorations are still part of the Theatre today.

In 1929, the Chevy Chase Theatre was renamed the Avalon Theatre when it became part of Stanley Warner. The first "Talkie" movie shown at the Avalon Theatre was called "The Wolf of Wall Street", staring George Bancroft.

Warner improved the Theatre by giving it an Art Deco look in 1937. A vertical electric sign was installed. The sign is still used today. The marquee metal covering was streamlined. The modernized Theatre entrance included a stainless steel box office and Formica and glass doors. Black and red glass tile called Vitrolite was installed on the front of the building. Seating in the auditorium was reduced to just 800. Formica and wood walls were installed in the lobby as well as new chandeliers. The most exciting part of the renovation of that time was the installation of air conditioning.

In 1960, the Avalon became part of RKO Stanley Warner. The movie theater began showing "first run" movies after many years of showing only 3rd, 4th or 5th tier movies. The theater was remodeled, again, in the 1960's

In 1968, the Pedas Brothers of the Circle Theater chain purchased the Avalon. In 1970, a small 200 seat theater was installed on the 2nd floor. In order to stop light from entering the theater, metal coverings were installed over the front façade. The lobby was expanded at this time. In the 1970's an acoustic tile ceiling, dry wall and mirrors were installed in the lobby, covering many of the original architectural details. Seating in the main auditorium was reduced again to 665 seats. In 1985, Virginia artist, Dana Westring, painted a new mural on the auditorium's main ceiling dome.

Circle Theaters was sold in 1987 to Cineplex Odeon. Due to the new 6 screen theater that opened on Wisconsin Avenue, the Avalon (now called Cineplex Odeon) went back to running art films. The Theatre was sold in 1996 and in 1998 the Cineplex Odeon merged with Loews.

In early 2001, the Theatre was permanently closed and equipment and fixtures were removed. A local group of concerned citizens organized a nonprofit organization called "The Avalon Theatre Project." In April of 2002, more then 200 people were enlisted to show community support to revitalize the Theatre. Since April 2002, many area residents have donated time and money to restore the Theatre to its former beauty. On April 22, 2003 opened once more to run movies to film goers. Since the reopening, the Avalon has been so successful. The nonprofit organization was able to purchase the Theatre in 2006.

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