By Ahnayah Hughes, Howard University News Service
Washington, DC — The Avalon Theatre, a non-profit film center located in Friendship Heights, serves to entertain and educate those in the D.C. metropolitan area. “We have a couple different goals,” said The Avalon’s marketing coordinator, Drew Friedman.“One of the biggest ones is definitely bringing together the community,” she continued.
Originally named the Chevy Chase Theatre when it opened in 1923 as a neighborhood movie theater, the Avalon has an extensive history of bringing people together. Initially housing a1,200-seat auditorium, a music school, a ballet studio, and a variety of neighborhood businesses, the Avalon has always opened its doors to those in D.C. ‘s Ward 3 and beyond. Under the control of various managements for the last 80 years, the theater has taken on many different looks and missions. In 2001, the last commercial owners declared bankruptcy, and the theater was shut down.
However, community members in Ward 3 did not accept this and after nearly two years of fundraising and lobbying for donations, The Avalon Theater re-opened in 2003 as the local movie house and community-geared organization it is today.
“I would say about 99 percent of what we program is on-screen entertainment. We have many programs that involve lots of different factions and aspects of film,” said building manager, Henry Passman.
These programs include, ‘Film in Focus’, where filmmakers are invited to display and discuss their projects; family matinees that showcase puppet theater; ‘Exhibition on Screen’ that explore the lives and works of famous artists; and a partnership with the Israeli, Czech and Polish embassies that display films not accessible at commercial theaters. Currently, their biggest program is ‘Cinema Classroom’, in which middle and high schools around D.C. are invited to analyze films and their context in relation to their coursework.
In addition to these, this will be the first the Avalon will host a student film festival in a partnership with American University. Sarah Pokempner, director of development and education, explains the motivation of these programs. “We see that film has an impact on students that sometimes book learning and classroom work doesn’t offer,” she said.
“The real mission is to maintain a place where alternative and popular movies to be shown for the community. We have a little cafe where you can get a coffee or ice cream or a beer. We really want to make the place as welcoming and diverse as possible,” Passman explained.