City Cast

From The Archives: The Avalon Theater

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on June 5
Old picture of the Avalon Theater box office

An illustration from 1922 of the Avalon Theater. (Chevy Chase News)

Avalon Theater in Chevy Chase just turned 100, making it one of the oldest operating movie houses in the region. It’s a modern miracle that it is still running, as most of the original movie theaters in D.C. have been demolished or converted to retail use.

It was founded as the Chevy Chase Theater in 1923 to screen silent films. At the time, there were 1,200 seats (it now only seats 450) and a giant pipe organ to accompany old movies.

The theater declared bankruptcy in 2001 and was closed and stripped of its seats and projection equipment. Fearing it would be demolished completely, the neighborhood rallied, formed a nonprofit, and raised restoration funds. The Avalon reopened to great excitement two years later.

These days, the theater screens everything from blockbusters to independent and foreign films that you can’t find elsewhere. It also serves as a community center with youth and family programming, classes, and events.

The Avalon still looking sharp today. (Avalon Theater/Elliot O’Donovan)

The Avalon still looking sharp today. (Avalon Theater/Elliot O’Donovan)

City Cast DC talked with two of the Avalon’s board members about how the community has come together to save the theater, 20 years ago and today.

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