Saturday, January 9, 2010

The AVON THEATRE Decatur,Il.

It's funny how a chance outing can change your life. Sometimes it's for good and sometimes for worse. In 2001, my life & my wife's, were changed forever and this was one of those good times. I saw an add in the Decatur paper for a twin bill at The Avon Theatre, featuring "SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE" & the 1922 silent classic NOSFERATU. I had never been to The Avon, nor Decatur,Il. as far as that goes. This night would literally change my life's direction over the next 6 years. The Avon Theatre was originally opened on Nov. 28th, 1916 and is the longest continually operating movie theatre in the state of Illinois and also one of the absolute finest. It's located in newly revitalized downtown Decatur, at 426 North Water Street. The first thing you will notice when you go there,(as I did on that night in 2001) is its owner, Skip Huston, or The Head Honcho. Skip is a very hands on owner, he greets you going in & out, he sells tickets, he makes announcements of upcoming shows before that nights presentation & will refer to you by name on your next visit if you take the time to introduce yourself to him. Skip, owner of the Avon since 1999, is the Cecil D. Demille of theatre owners,and a wonderful man who takes his business very seriously. The theatre is clean, safe & staffed by knowledgeable film people who care about your experience. Going to The Avon is not just watching a movie, it is an experience you wont forget & will long to do again over & over. If you cannot tell yet...I LOVED THIS PLACE FROM DAY ONE... I sit here in 2010 and reflect back & still feel a longing deep in my soul to head up to The Avon every chance I get. Since, 2001 I have watched over 150 movies at The Avon, and I forgot to mention I did so on the largest movie screen in the tri-state area. When we first began attending shows at The Avon, it catered to overlooked, art films, foreign films & just downright Good Films ! Over the years Skip built two more theatres right next door to the original theatre & they are known as The Avon Twins and show more of the main stream & blockbusters while the Avon continues to show overlooked & Art Films...going back to its roots. Its prices remain lower than the multiplexes, & has The Best gourmet popcorn around. The Avon is known far & wide for its popcorn. Other specialties to the Avon is it's, beautiful marquee out front, it's balcony, and the neon blue ghostlights on the stage. As you settle into your seat & the show begins you will be thrilled to know there are no advertisement's, just an old fashioned vintage cartoon,(hand selected by Skip)and a couple trailers. If your lucky you may get to see the original "LETS ALL GO TO THE LOBBY" or "Mama" telling you to turn your cell phone off, be quiet, keep your feet off the chairs & was your hands. It's a classic reel. Over the past 8 years Skip has taught film classes for Richland College right at the Avon. Most classes are 6 or 8 weeks long with 1 film chosen each week by Skip with his intro before & live discussion afterwards. These classes are a "hidden jewel" & Judy & I have participated in many of these classes, and they're targeted for any film buff, from beginner to novice. There is nothing like seeing silents & classics in a theatre that showed many of them when they originally came out. I've been fortunate to see silents there like SUNRISE, THE CROWD, THE WIND, THE BIG PARADE, and SHERLOCK JR. & SPEEDY with the ALLOY ORCHESTRA a 3 member group that sounds like a full orchestra. If your looking for Special Events, look no further... The Avon provides FREE shows on Halloween, Christmas & New Years Eve, and televised the Academy Awards in the past. Motion Picture Star & Cult Legend BRUCE CAMPBELL has appeared on several occasions and (Lt. Dan) of Forrest Gump fame, GARY SINSE recently appeared at a special showing of a local directors war film. The Avon does The ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW with Milliken's drama students acting it out on stage w/ the film. How about RARE films? Lets just say I've seen SONG OF THE SOUTH, BIRTH OF A NATION, FREAKS, & THE BLACK CAT there. So as time went on & Judy and I developed a wonderful relationship, w/ The Avon, Skip & his lovely wife Sue over the next 3 years, things would arise that would change our lives in a big way & I will continue in my next column. Anyone interested in going to The Avon, PLEASE leave me a comment & maybe we can hook up & I'd love to play host. Also, please let me know your top 6 or 8 CRIME FILMS you would love to be able to see.