At the finish of this year, Catalina Island’s The Avalon Theater will end first-run films for good, finishing a 90-year tradition. The Catalina Island Co., its proprietor and administrator and the principal landowner around town, plans to proceed with every day visits and offer up the performance center for events like the long-running Catalina Film Fest and Silent Film Benefit.
CEO Randy Herrel said lack of people go to the new flicks to make the Avalon monetarily feasible. He said it needs at least 137 theatergoers consistently to earn back the original investment; normal participation this year, barring blockbusters like the new “Lion King” change, is only 37.
“It’s not going to get any better for our movie theater,” he said. “What small town that has 4,000 population has a 1,000-seat theater that’s still open?”
The issue that crosses over into intolerability for Herrel was recognized during a drive through Avalon not long ago on one of Catalina’s golf trucks.
“There were so many satellite dishes screwed onto balconies,” he said. “We have no support from the town for the current movies showing…Everyone’s throwing rocks, but no one is coming up with good, viable, sustainable solutions.”
The chilly financial aspects doesn’t figure well with a great deal of residents.
“It’s indefensible,” said a resident, who manages a spa on the island. “A company that big can’t use the excuse of lack of money for closing it down.”
“I’m not convinced this closure is necessary,” another resident added. “The experience for us is like a birthright.”
She currently lives “over town,” Catalina-talk for the mainland. The energetic occupant created a Change.org request asking Herrel to keep the Avalon’s daily screenings. It as of now gloats more than 11,500 signatures — which is almost three times Catalina’s populace.
As a 5-year-old, local historian Chuck Liddell used to give out theater handbills to beachgoers back when the Avalon shows films each night. Now 72, he identifies to some degree with the Catalina Island Co’s. circumstance; they are required to show a similar film for fourteen days in a row on account of studio necessities. In any event, representing visitors, that doesn’t appear to be an equation to pull in in regular customers in a town this little.
“They’re stuck, they can’t do much,” Liddell said. “I think we gotta put our money where our mouth is, and stop complaining.”
Of course, Liddell concedes that “there were two stipulations I’ve always had that if I lost either of these, for the first time I would feel like I needed to leave the island. And one was to be told that you can’t see a movie in the Avalon.”
It’s the most recent turn in the adventure of a structure whose modelers told the press in 1928 that the theater and its going with club “will be a contribution to western culture and architecture, rather than a business enterprise.”
Built for $2 million by chewing gum financier William Wrigley just before the Great Depression, the Avalon is one of only a handful hardly any Old Hollywood performance centers left in Southern California that has some expertise in contemporary films rather than just revivals. However, it has attempted to draw in huge groups as far back as the coming of TV.
As of late as the 1980s, the Avalon opened distinctly for a considerable length of time throughout the winter. Catalina lost its brilliance for the Hollywood set and the theater’s stewards enabled its loftiness to blur away until a $750,000 rebuilding in 1994 saw every one of the seats reupholstered and the wall paintings brushed clean of grime.
As of late, the Island Co. redesigned the auditorium’s sound framework, changed to a digital projector, supplanted the film screen, and even started to offer alcoholic drinks and pizza so as to help ticket sales. They presented increasingly great films and exhibitions on the gigantic theater organ each Friday and Saturday evening.
In any case, participation, which averaged at somewhere in the range of 400 and 500 during summer evenings as of late as 2002, proceeded to fall.
Herrel said that the Catalina Island Co. is conversing with a music-promotion group about doing shows at the Avalon and a “well-known comedy theater” to occupy the space. However, Ron Truppa, who runs the Catalina Film Festival, contends that the present motion picture masters should help keep the Avalon for what it’s worth. He has led behind the stage visits for everybody from William H. Macy to Sharon Stone to Nicolas Cage, who recorded a video pronouncing the Avalon “my favorite theater in the world.”
“When we have these celebrities come through here and they experience it for the first time, it’s like that little-kid feeling all over again,” he said. “It humbles them. Jon Favreau was like a kid in a candy store when he saw the projection room. But since the theater is in Avalon, it’s like out of sight, out of mind. The daily screenings are kind of what kept it breathing and made it a living organism.”
The Avalon unquestionably hums with fervor on numerous evenings. Such a crowd arrived — 250 — that “Frozen 2” began 15 minutes late. The audience went about as though it was simply any other night, as they chomped on popcorn and Reese’s Pieces and calmed babies and snickered at the jokes of Olaf the snowman.
Be that as it may, despairing set in once the lights went up.
“It would be a horrible loss to our community,” said Rachel Hammer, 35, of San Clemente. “Closing the theater is going to take it away from the next generation.”
“Every resident here should be able to come outside of a tour,” said fifth-generation Catalinan Andrea Carstaphen.
She conveyed the Change.org appeal to the Catalina Island Co., alongside tributes from others.
Inside, 13-year-old friends Alexa Moronez and Jocelyn Reyes waited in the hall, ringed with dark pecan boards and gold-leaf highlights. Pre-adolescents sat on the vintage love seats.
“This has always been known for those of us who’ve grown up here as a theater to see movies with each other,” Alexa said. “Now, it’s going to be known as just a building.””