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Avalon Cinema


2002 Photo from the Adam Martin collection
4225 S Kingshighway Blvd
Saint Louis MO 63109

Demolished 2012
Record #1120  
 Opened: 1935
 Closed: 1999
 Demolished: 2012
Capacity: 1000 seats
Architect(s): AF Stauder
Architectural Style(s):
National Register:
Current Organ: none
 Also Known As:
 Previously operated by: Arthur Enterprises, BAC Theatres

Information for this tour was contributed by Darren Snow.

The Globe-Democrat reported on 2/10/1935 that a $50,000, 1000-seat theater was to be designed by A.F. and Arthur Stauder and constructed by the Stamm Co. in the Southtown neighborhood at the busy intersection of Kingshighway and Chippewa. On September 18, the Avalon opened with Escapade and Sanders of the River. The theater had a solid but uneventful career (it probably put the nearby Roxy out of business, truth be told) until August 1961, when Ed Arthur of the Arthur chain announced that the Avalon was about to become an art house, showing "outstanding American and foreign motion pictures." This arrangement didn't last long; the Avalon returned to conventional fare. Christmas 1972 found the Avalon receiving a $175,000 renovation featuring "Bodiform" chairs in a "continental seating arrangement." Also new were the projector, screen, heating and air conditioning, signage, and a nondescript brick facade. When the Arthur chain went out of business in fall 1977, the Avalon was sold to a bank for $132,000 in a foreclosure auction on the steps of the Civil Courts building.

The Belleville, Illinois-based BAC chain then assumed operation of the Avalon (and the nearby Granada) in its only foray into Missouri; this arrangement was short-lived. Eventually, the theater was purchased by Greg Tsevis, under whose management it became the first theater in St. Louis to screen the cinematic hot potato The Last Temptation of Christ. The big chains were wary of the controversial film, but Tsevis reasoned that if his Greek Orthodox grandmother didn't see anything wrong with it, it was worth booking. Protesters picketed the Avalon, but the publicity probably did more good than harm. After a few years, Tsevis ceased managing the cinema himself and leased it to John Moseley. In December 1992, Moseley sank $30,000 into marquee repairs, a new concession stand, and an improved roof over the lobby. He also lowered ticket prices from $3 to $1.

Unlike some aging neighborhood theaters, the Avalon benefited from its own parking lot and Moseley's management of a couple other dollar shows around town. Late-night showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show were also popular. Unfortunately, ticket receipts couldn't keep up with the maintenance an older building requires, so Moseley decided to cut his losses. He closed the Avalon in January 1999, shutting down one of his two other theaters the next day to concentrate on the more-profitable St. Andrews Cinema in St. Charles. Local journalists who hated to see the Avalon go were unable to get in touch with either Moseley or Tsevis -- who still owns the building, as far as anyone knows -- to discuss the closing. The projectors were sold to an out-of-town buyer and the Avalon sits silent. One proposed use for a nearby vacant lot involves a multiplex, the construction of which would certainly diminish the Avalon's chances for a revival.

 Photos
 Photos remain the property of the Member and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the Member.

July 2002 photos from the Adam Martin collection.


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Last featured 3/8/2005. Last edited 3/17/2013.

 
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