HISTORY of the AVALON
Construction on The New Theatre is completed. It immediately becomes, “The Showplace of the Eastern Shore." Visually spectacular, its details include leaded glass doors at every theater entrance, an 18-foot dome with 148 lights, a 300-pipe electric-pneumatic organ, an electric player piano, and a ballroom on the second floor.
The New Theatre is purchased by the Schine Theatre Chain and renamed The Avalon Theatre. Schine completely refits the building, closes the ballroom, and the theatre is redesigned with an Art Deco theme that still stands today.
In the process of the makeover, the theater loses many of its accouterments in favor of the Art Deco theme, but its reputation as a movie house grows quickly. Generations of Eastern Shore movie-goers see Clark Gable’s first screen kiss, Bette Davis’ first psychotic role, and Roy Rogers’ first gunfight at the Avalon.
Three world premieres take place at the Avalon including "The First Kiss" starring Gary Cooper and Fay Rae, which was filmed in Easton and St. Michaels.
The Avalon’s run as Easton’s premier movie house ends after 64 years. Suffering from mildew, cracks in the walls, stained carpeting, and rickety seats, the Avalon closes and remains dark for the remainder of the decade.
Under the leadership of Easton Mayor George Murphy and in partnership with a private restaurant group led by Dick Edgar and Will Howard, the Avalon Theatre is magnificently restored and upgraded to a performing arts center, retaining its proscenium stage, domed ceiling, and incredible acoustics. The restaurant group redevelops the remainder of the building to create three distinct restaurants and adds a third floor, incorporating fixtures and finishes hearkening back to the building's 1920's origins.
The building reopens to great fanfare and the Town of Easton gives the Theatre portion of the building to the Mid-Shore Center for the Performing Arts.
After 18 months of operations, the Mid-Shore Center for the Performing Arts goes bankrupt. Shortly thereafter, without audiences coming into the building, the restaurants fail. To save the theatre, it is repurchased at auction by its sole bidder, the Town of Easton. The restaurants are subdivided, sold off, and have changed hands many times since.
After intensive discussion and analysis by a planning group, the town decides to turn the operation over to a non-profit corporation, its Board of Trustees, and professional management. The town enters a lease agreement with the Avalon Foundation, Inc, founded by John General and Ellen Vatne.
Soon thereafter, the Avalon Theatre begins its rapid growth as a center for performing arts and community events. Since the Avalon Foundation took over, the Theatre has been outfitted with state of the art sound and lighting, video projectors, television production facilities, and a friendly yet elegant atmosphere.
The Avalon Foundation purchases part of the second floor of the building, the location of the original ballroom.
The second-floor space owned by the Avalon Foundation is transformed into the Stoltz Listening Room, a 60-seat cabaret-style performing venue, through a generous gift by Keith Stoltz in celebration of the 50th wedding anniversary of his parents, Susan and Jack.
The Avalon Foundation purchases the building's third floor. The space offers a stunning view of downtown Easton and contains a beautiful 20-foot wide stained-glass dome. It is used for book signings, meet and greets with artists, Foundation functions, and is meeting space for the dozens of committees that make the Foundation's work possible.
With the Town of Easton wishing to divest of ownership of the Theatre, The Avalon Foundation rallies its supporters to raise the funds necessary to purchase the Theatre space of the building.
Major renovations are done to the Theatre to restore the beauty of the original art deco features. These renovations also include updated ADA compliant bathrooms, removal of the antiquated projection room, modern stage lights, and better sight lines and legroom in the balcony.
While celebrating the Theatre’s centennial, the Avalon Foundation purchases the final piece of the building, the first-floor restaurant space. With full ownership of the Avalon Theatre building, the Foundation enters the next 100 years with opportunities not previously possible.