Help us revive the New Regal Theater as a major community performing arts venue for Chicago’s South Side.
About this project
The goal of this project is to reestablish the New Regal Theater as a major performing arts center for Chicago’s South Side. With your help, our Kickstarter campaign can reopen this Chicago Landmark to the public and create a much needed catalyst for development in the community.
Resumed operations at the New Regal will produce local jobs and regular programming will contribute to the creation of a more vibrant economy and safer neighborhood. The theater’sprime location at the intersection of four major arteries (79th St., South Chicago Ave., Stony Island Ave. and the Chicago Skyway) makes it well positioned to drive regional commerce and promote tourism to the area.
A Regal History
The New Regal is located in the former Avalon Theater building, which was opened in 1927 at 79th Street and Stony Island Avenue in the South Shore neighborhood. Designed by movie palace architect John Eberson, the Avalon’s Moorish Revival themes were inspired by an ornate Persian incense burner he found at an antique store. The complex houses an auditorium and banquet hall which resonate with almost a century of history. With 2,250 seats, the theater is one of the largest remaining movie palaces in the country. Current pictures of space can be found at the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House Chicago website: http://www.openhousechicago.org/site/396/.
Located in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood at 47th and South Park Way was the original Regal Theater, which opened in 1928 and showcased iconic talents such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, B. B. King, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, and many more. The original Regal played a key role in the development of black music from the 1920s through the 1950s. The theater was closed in 1970 and the building was eventually demolished in 1973 after being partially destroyed by fire.
Looking Forward to the Past
The Avalon operated as a movie theater through the late 1970s and ultimately became vacant after brief use as a community church. In 1985, the Avalon was purchased by Ed and Bettiann Gardner, who reopened the building in 1987 after an extensive renovation. The reopened building was named the New Regal Theater- an aspirational reference to its Bronzeville ancestor. The New Regal became a Chicago Landmark in 1992 and was bought by another group in 2008. In 2010, the building went into foreclosure, eventually falling into FDIC receivership.
In the summer of 2011, Landmarks Illinois listed the New Regal as one of the 10 most endangered historic buildings statewide. They noted in their report, “Despite the necessary exterior wall repair work, the New Regal theater space is in good condition and largely operational.” (http://www.landmarks.org/ten_most_2011_new_regal_theater.htm)
Last year, Community Capital purchased the New Regal and has since produced several open house events in partnership with the Chicago Architecture Foundation and the Rebuild Foundation.
Use of Campaign Proceeds
This campaign will help pay for work needed to begin the phased reopening of the theater. The estimated total cost of this is around $100,000 and includes, but is not limited to, the following items:
-Purchasing a projector for the movie screen
-Purchasing a sound system for the auditorium and hall
-Refinishing the stage floor and orchestra pit
-Restoring full power to the theater to identify any electrical and mechanical issues
-Reactivating the HVAC system to pinpoint where further repairs are needed
-Renovating and upgrading the bathrooms
Every Dollar Counts
Though this Kickstarter campaign is focused on raising funds for immediate reactivation of the space, we have estimated that up to $5 million will be needed to fully restore the theater to its former glory. This includes about $2.6 million needed to perform further interior mechanical and technological repairs and upgrades and $2.4 million to replace damaged and missing terracotta in the façade.
Your support can help make the theater available for on-site fundraisers and every dollar raised above our $100,000 target for this Kickstarter puts us closer to our $5 million ultimate goal.
“To have a theater like this saved, preserved and have it active again would be wonderful for any neighborhood in Chicago, but for this neighborhood in particular it’s a win because it has its struggles.”
Chicago Architecture Foundation
Crain’s Chicago Business
ABC 7 Chicago (On-site video coverage)
Risks and challenges
As with any undertaking of this scale, the challenges are many and diverse. These include delays in the fabrication and installation of historic elements, lagging permit processing times, and future structural issues that could be discovered during the restoration process. However, by enlisting experienced and licensed architects, general contractors and engineers we hope to effectively manage these risks.