Avalon Theatre - Catalina

1 Casino Way    | map

Avalon, Catalina Island CA   90704

(310) 510-0179

Website: www.visitcatalinaisland.com/avalon

Opened:  May 29, 1929 with the Douglas Fairbanks film "The Iron Mask."

Architects:  Sumner Spaulding, Walter Weber. John Gabriel Beckman did the murals.  The site Ask Art has a bit about Mr. Beckman and the Avalon murals.

Seating: 1,184

This underwater deco confection is on the ground floor of William Wrigley's monumental Casino Building -- with the ballroom above it.  It's still owned by the Wrigley family.  The building, which originally cost $2 million, received a restoration in 1994.  The original 4/16 Page theatre organ is still in use.

The theatre was profiled in a May 10, 1930 article in the trade magazine Exhibitors Herald-World. Theatre historian Cezar Del Valle included the piece in a Theatre Talks post about the Avalon:

“Overlooking the bay of romantic Avalon, metropolis (for it is that) of Santa Catalina Island stands the latest of William Wrigley Jr.’s magnificent gestures to wholesome pleasures, a building of steel and stone which yet has all the gossamer unreality of a fairy queen’s palace. It is called the Casino and it houses a fully equipped motion picture theatre and ballroom.

The architecture of the exterior is of a Mediterranean pattern, a style that is followed throughout the foyers and corridors inside. It is within the theatre itself that all traditional manners are flung aside to create an original environment in the essential Catalinian spirit-that of make-believe.

The walls of the theatre, which is located on the first floor, start converging toward the center of the ceiling and stage, almost but a few feet from the floor, and upon them is painted an impressionistic representation of Man unfettered amid a boundless Nature. It is allegory. It is history. And it may be hope. One assumes that it is also Catalina.

The auditorium, thus brightly painted in an original allegory and of atmospheric design, is broad and long, but it contains no pillars. There are about 1,300 seats, over 200 of them being luxurious three-wing back loge chairs. Seating is by the American Seating Company. The lighting is indirect, being projected upward from a false half-wall just inside the wall bearing the murals, which are thus illuminated.

The ballroom is located above the theatre. It is estimated that 2,000 couples can dance there at the same time.

The Casino cost $2,000,000. The architects were Weber and Spaulding.”

Thanks, Cezar!

Status: Still running first run films.

More theatre information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Avalon.  Also see the site's page for the nearby Riviera Theatre, now closed.

Hadley Meares did a fine 2014 article "The Catalina Casino: The Magic Isle's Art Deco Pleasure Palace" for the KCET series "Lost Landmarks."

ECN Electrical Forum has some photos of the booth equipment at the Avalon. Also see motor generator set & controls, dimmerboard backstage and dimmers and fuses.

    Cinema Treasures   

A 2009 look at an Avalon lobby light fixture by prolific
Cinema Treasures contributor Hollywood 90038.
full size view

An auditorium back wall shot by Hollywood 90038.
full size view

A look toward the screen in
2009 by Hollywood 90038.
full size view

See the site's page on the
Avalon Theatre for 13 more photos.

    Cezar Del Valle - Theatre Talks    

www.theatretalks.com | theatretalks.blogspot.com

A postcard of the theatre's interior from
Cezar Del Valle's Theatre Talks collection.
full size view

A view of the rear of the auditorium from a
 1930 Exhibitors Herald-World article on the theatre
featured in a Theatre Talks article by Cezar.
full size view

A look at the theatre's entrance
from the 1930 article.
full size view

The caption reads: "A corridor of the Casino leading to
the theatre, which is located on the main floor of the building.
The design here is of Mediterranean motifs, in common
with the exterior, but unlike the auditorium."

    L.A. Public Library Collection   


A 1929 view of the auditorium from the Library's collection.
full size view

This photo is also featured in the 1930
 1930 Exhibitors Herald-World article on the theatre
where the caption reads: "Auditorium of the theatre looking
toward the stage. Observable here is the manner in which
 the walls, short way from the floor, begin to converge,
quickly becoming the ceiling, forming a sky-like canopy."

Also in the collection:
| boxoffice and entrance - 1929 | theatre entrance from above - undated |
 | ballroom - 1929 | Casino exterior from the water - 1929 |
 | ballroom - c.1937 - Herman Schultheis |
 | ballroom stage - c.1937 - Schultheis |
 | Casino exterior - 1977 |
 ..and many more island views if you care to loo

    Brian McCray - Hollywood Postcards   


A postcard view of the Casino.
full size view

Also in Brian's set of over 400 great cards
 in his Hollywood Postcards set:
| Catalina greetings  |  flying fish  |  harbor  |  Wrigley residence |
 |  steamships in the harbor  |  ballroom  |  glass bottom boat  |

    Santa Catalina Island Co.   

 An auditorium view from the Santa Catalina
Island Company website's Avalon Theatre page.
A closer look at the proscenium.
The rear of the auditorium.

A look at the auditorium that used to appear on the
Santa Catalina Island Company's website.
full size view

See the site's page on the Avalon Theatre
for tour information and other photos.

    USC Archives    

A c.1938 Dick Whittington Studios view
looking down on the building.
full size view

Also in the Archive:
 | from the north | view of the bay - 1928 |
| looking across the harbor - undated |
..and lots more

about photos from other
websites that appear on this page...

We've tried to give appropriate credit. Please
contact us if there are incorrect attributions, links that
no longer work or other issues. A link near each image will
direct you to a full size version on the website hosting it.
Assume that all the images are subject to copyright
restrictions. Contact the webmaster of the site in
question concerning reproduction or other use.

    Belle Epoque to Art Deco   

Thanks to Nile Hight for his set of eight Avalon Theatre photos, a
post of his on the Belle Epoque to Art Deco page in March 2016.

The building from above.
full size view | on Facebook

Nile notes: "That's Los Angeles rising in the
background. In Italian casino means gathering
place. There is no gambling in this building."

The Avalon's boxoffice.

The tile mural above the boxoffice.
full size view | on Facebook

An entrance door detail.
full size view | on Facebook

The Avalon's lobby -- with a
peek inside the auditorium.
A sidewall auditorium mural detail.

    Emily Ho on Flickr   


The underwater murals in the
colonnade outside the theatre.
full size view

A look down the lobby of the Avalon in 2006.
full size view

A 2006 sidewall mural detail.
full size view

Another mural detail from 2006.
full size view

See Emily's 43 photo Catalina set
for more views of the Casino.

    Penny Postcards   


A postcard exterior of the Casino.
full size view

Also on the site:
| theatre interior -- a smaller view of the one
in Cezar Del Valle's collection |
 | more  island cards |

    Spherical Panoramas   


A view of the proscenium from the site's
active 360 degree tour of the Avalon Theatre.
It's a work by Carel Struycken.

More from the panorama:

    A Visit To Old Los Angeles & Environs   


A postcard of the Avalon harbor before
construction of the Casino building. It's from
Part 3 of this site's visit to Catalina.
 full size view

Brent Dickerson's delightful series has
four chapters on a trip to Catalina featuring
many vintage photos and postcards:
San Pedro / Catalina Part 1  | Catalina Part 2  |
 |  Catalina Part 3  |  Catalina Part 4  |