The South Side’s vacant Avalon Regal Theater could be on the fast track to reopening its doors after earning celebrity ally Kanye West. The Chicago-born rapper announced his involvement on Sunday by tweeting his intention to restore the landmarked structure.
We’re doing Chicago Comedy Jam. We’re going to restore the Regal Theatre— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) September 10, 2018
Located near the corner of of 79th Street and Stony Island Avenue at the border of the South Shore and Avalon Park neighborhoods, the theater was built in the Moroccan Revival style by architect John Eberson in 1927. After stints as a movie house, church, and live performance venue, the Avalon Regal sat mostly dormant and unused for the better part of a decade.
The building was purchased out of foreclosure for $100,000 in 2014 by entrepreneur Jerald Gary. The South Shore native hoped to raise funds to cover numerous plumbing, electrical, and tech-related updates. As of Monday afternoon, a crowdfunding campaign had raised about $200 of its $150,000 goal. The property owner says that he already put “over $1 million” of his own money into the theater, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Gary hopes the restored Avalon Regal will be ready in time to host a holographic concert organized by Chicago rapper Chief Keef on September 26. If not, a “hologram truck” with a built-in stage is standing by as a back up and will host the free show in the theater’s adjacent parking lot, says the Sun-Times.
Meanwhile, the building’s ornate lobby eyes a return to the lineup of the Chicago Architecture Center’s annual Open House Chicago weekend, scheduled for October 13 and 14. The site was abruptly pulled from the last year’s event to comply with a court order requiring the property to remain “vacant and secure,” reported the Chicago Tribune.
Provided the renovations move forward, the Avalon Regal would become the latest historic Chicago movie palace to see new life. Other notable projects include the ongoing redevelopment of Logan Square’s 2,900-seat Congress Theater and the recently announced rehabilitation of the massive, 4,381-seat Uptown Theater.
West’s interest in the South Side venue was one several Chicago-related tweets published by the celebrity over the weekend. Additionally, West announced plans for a Chicago Yeezy fashion store as well as news that he would be teaching a course at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The tweets came as a surprise to the School of the Art Institute, whose spokeswoman told Block Club Chicago that “Mr. West is not currently teaching at SAIC, and at this time, there are no plans for him to do so.”
- Kanye West says he’s joined effort to revive shuttered Avalon Regal Theater [Chicago Sun-Times]
- South Side theater pulled from Open House caught in drama between owner, city [Chicago Tribune]