CITIZEN JOURNALISM: Avalon preserves movie history

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Popular programming includes a partnership with the French Embassy, a Czech film series and relationships with many of the more than 70 annual D.C.-based film festivals as well as a newly launched program aimed at senior film enthusiasts.

“It’s kinda trendy. It’s the hip place to go when I’m in town,” says Chicago native Caroline Teter, who was visiting friends who live nearby and insisted on coming to the Avalon.

“I bring my nephews for the Saturday morning matinees. They have great programs on the weekends,” says D.C. resident Joelle Gore.

Riding farther south, the L2 passes the Uptown Theatre at 3426 Connecticut Ave., which opened in October 1936 and is the second-oldest movie theater in the city.

Published in 1999, “Motion Picture Exhibition in Washington, D.C. : An Illustrated History of Parlors, Palaces and Multiplexes in the Metropolitan Area, 1894-1997,” written by Mr. Headley, is required reading for anyone interested in local history and culture. Containing rare photos juxtaposed with primary source interviews, the book documents a city that was filled with bustling downtown theaters and active community-supported neighborhood theaters.

Just inside Avalon 2 is a black-and-white photo collage of an abridged local theater history that consumes the entire wall. Accompanying the collage is an index that has the theaters’ addresses and years of operation: the Apollo, 624 H St. NE (1913-1953); the Avenue Grand, 645 Pennsylvania Ave. SE (1910-1970); Trans-Lux, 738 14th St. NW (1936-1974); and the Dumbarton, 1349 Wisconsin Ave. NW (1913-1986) are some of the nearly 20 theaters chronicled.

“People come from far away, and people come on foot,” says Henry Passman, general manager of the Avalon. “We have become a community resource for the entire metro area, not just the surrounding blocks. We recently received a phone call from the Old Town Theater in Alexandria. They wanted to know how we did it.”

John Muller is a writer and photographer living in Montgomery County.

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