The Stunning Art Deco Theatre Hidden Inside Catalina’s Casino

Our main reason for visiting Catalina was to attend Catalinaland, a presentation by Ambassador of Americana, and personal idol, Charles Phoenix. Phoenix was presenting his slideshow celebrating the island in the iconic Avalon Theatre, which is located within the Catalina Casino.

When chewing gum king, William Wrigley Jr. opened his “Casino” on May 29, 1929, he did so with the Italian meaning in mind, which means “gathering place” or “place of entertainment” or “a building built for pleasure and entertainment.” So, in other words you won’t find any slot machines or roulette wheels here! But what you will find is an absolutely breathtaking theatre and ballroom.

Myself standing on the beach with the Casino Building in the background. Wearing a bright blue peasant top, with a white and tan printed skirt.

The Casino Building from the hill above, a circular building painting cream, with a Spanish tile roof of red. Arches surround the upper floor.

The Casino was designed by Sumner A. Spaulding and Walter Webber, and it is an art deco masterpiece, but with Spanish Revival nuances, because, hey, this is California.

Myself standing on the beach with the Casino Building in the background. Wearing a bright blue peasant top, with a white and tan printed skirt.

A close up of my charm of the Casino, with the actual Casino in the background.

And, yes, that is a charm of the Casino! My dad found it awhile back. I immediately added it to my California themed charm bracelet and have been just waiting to do a shot like this!

Myself standing on the beach with the Casino Building in the background. Wearing a bright blue peasant top, with a white and tan printed skirt.

Close up of my sterling palm tree brooch.

The Casino Building as seen from the beach, a cream colored circular building with a red colored Spanish tile roof. Arches grace the upper floor and look toward toward the ocean.

The tall arched gateways into the building. Blue flags with white "W"s on them for Wrigley are atop the edge of the roof.

Myself standing in front of the casino building, wearing a bright blue peasant top.

The building serves two purposes, the first floor is a movie theatre, the second is a grand ballroom. Outside the theatre are massive murals featuring fanciful sea life, the centerpiece of which is a mermaid executed in the elegant tile of the famed Catalina Pottery.

The tall archways into the arcade of the theatre.

A red headed mermaid with her hair flowing above her.

Tall murals grace a covered entry to the Avalon Theatre, each of a different sea scene.

Two tall murals depicting sea life, including fish, seaweed, and rocks.

Mural of life under the scene, including sea horses and seaweed.

Long art deco lamps hang in the arcade in front.

Close up of a painted white shield with the words "Avalon Theatre" on it, edged in gold, on the door into the theatre.

The lobby just inside features rich dark wood, which ushers visitors into a large domed theatre, also outfitted with spectacular murals of a mythical tale of California.

A lighted sign reading "Aisle 1" above the door to the theatre.

Overall shot of the theatre, with its dome roof, and mural all around.

Inside the theatre, a massive painting encompasses the seating area, depicting a fanciful history of California, here a nude man shoots a bow and arrow into an art deco wilderness.

Inside the theatre, a massive painting encompasses the seating area, depicting a fanciful history of California, hooded monks walk along the short of crashing waves and a Spanish ship sails.

Almost Mayan style masks for comedy and tragedy grace the center doors of the theatre.

Inside the theatre, a massive painting encompasses the seating area, depicting a fanciful history of California, tall cacti and spotted antelopes leap.

A close up of Native Americans atop horses painted near the theatre's stage.

Close up of the image of Madonna standing nude out of a shell is painted above the stage.

The murals, both inside, and out, were done by John Gabriel Beckman, who was also responsible for the murals of Hollywood’s Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and earned the reputation for being the “foremost muralist living on the west coast.” Beckman met with Wrigley over dinner to discuss the murals, and just two days later presented Wrigley with sketches, which were quickly approved. Shockingly the murals were completed in three months, and still enchant and amaze visitors to this day.

The theatre also maintains and uses its original pipe organ, which can be heard before weekend movie screenings. Also, in case you’re wondering, this place is still just a movie theatre, running current movies, in addition to hosting special events.

As mentioned, the building is also home to a ballroom, but sadly, we could not access it, perhaps on another visit!

The Avalon Theatre is located at 1 Casino Way in Avalon on Catalina Island. You can visit it just to see a movie, or take one of the tours offered!

Outfit
Peasant Top: Pinup Girl Clothing
Palm Trees Brooch: Living Threads Vintage
Skirt: Buffalo Exchange
California Charm Bracelet: Made up of vintage charms found here and there.
Shoes: Re-Mix

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