Towne Cinema, more than an old building
Editor’s note: A portion of this article is being reprinted with the permission of 3ten.org, Decatur High’s media program.
By Mary Margaret Stewart, 3ten.org
Avondale Estates’ Old Towne Cinema: a 91-year-old building, formerly home to The Avon, Our Way Cafe, Metro Dance Company, and now, a music venue. Although the cinema sat vacant after Nickel and Dime recording studio closed in 2009, the building’s aura never faded in the memories of previous tenants and Avondale citizens.
THE AVON 1950-1960s
The Paynes remember 25¢ sci-fi, horror films
Mary Payne and her husband moved their family of four boys to Avondale in 1954. For her clan of kids, walking half a mile to meet friends at The Avon theater became a Saturday tradition.
Her second oldest son, David, vividly remembers going to The Avon on Saturdays in the late 1950s.
Each movie began with classic, Mickey Mouse cartoons then moved on to a 10-minute news of the day segment before the feature film.
“When we were kids, I mean, heck – in the old days, it was 25 cents to get in,” David said. “Ten cents for Raisinets, ten cents for a Coke, and for 50 cents, you could get all the snacks you wanted, and more to spare.”
“They would spend more money on popcorn and goodies than to get in the theater,” Mary said with a laugh.
From noon on, the Avon would play the day’s featured movie, which was usually a sci-fi or horror film. After World War II, the theater showed several movies about atomic bombs and nuclear war.
“All these sci-fi movies based on the atomic bombs and radiation were coming to the Avondale theater, and as kids, we couldn’t wait for the next one,” David said.
Horror movies remained David and his friends’ favorite genre, even though they sometimes fled the theater “scared out of [their] britches.”
“We saw the original Frankenstein there, and I remember distinctly going to this little tiny bathroom that was always gross and throwing up everywhere,” David said. “Oh, it scared me to death! I puked up my popcorn.”
Mary recalls David and his friends “all coming home in a hurry” if they were scared enough.
“We went up there and watched that guy turn into a wolf – that one scared the bejeezus out of us,” David said. “Those were good movies, all of ‘em.”
David compares Avondale during the ‘50s and ‘60s to “Leave it to Beaver”’s innocent Americana charm, but he still managed to create mischief.
“We’d go in Avondale’s drugstore before a movie, and between you and me and us girls, we would occasionally shoplift these wonderful pies,” David said. “This old marine would chase us down to Avon, and we would hang around the corner until the movie started.”
Mary and David said the theater was a great break for mothers.
“Parents give you a buck or less, and you walk half a mile to the theater, and nobody worries about you getting picked up and held for ransom or anything,” David said.
This once-weekly hangout spot isn’t a small town staple anymore.
“There aren’t many places in the community where you can actually walk to the movies as a child. It would be nice to see it come back and see someone do something with it,” David said. “I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes just thinking about the stuff that we did back then.”
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