The Avondale Towne Cinema is Closing
Nightlife of any significance has long been a rarity in sleepy Avondale Estates, especially given the suburban Atlanta town’s reputation for an especially aggressive police force. So while it’s not surprising that the Avondale Towne Cinema has been struggling to stay afloat since reopening in the summer of 2015, news of its impending closure still seemed a bit sudden.
Evidence that something was afoot first bubbled to the surface when members of the Atlanta-based Chicago tribute band Chi-Town Transit Authority arrived to load in on Friday, Nov. 23rd for their show that night, only to find the doors locked. Eventually a former employee showed up to inform them that their show would not be taking place, and shortly after 6 p.m. a posting on the venue’s Facebook page announced that the night’s show was cancelled, without further explanation. Refunds were issued to those who purchased advance tickets.
The afternoon of Nov. 24, the Towne Cinema formally announced via its Facebook page that it would be closing on Dec. 15th, but would be open normal hours until then, with all scheduled shows and events still taking place. These include Mudcat’s release party for their ambitious new conceptual song cycle Castaway on Dec. 1 and The Rainmen’s annual holiday show on Dec. 8. “We can no longer afford to operate,” the venue’s post stated. “Our landlords were great in helping make this successful but they could not back us anymore and are working on someone else coming into the space.”
Opened in the mid-1920s as Avondale’s post office and city hall, and designed in the same Tudor revival architecture style as the rest of the planned community’s central business district, the space was converted to a movie theater in 1938, which it remained for several decades. By the late ‘70s it briefly housed the J & S Recording Studio before becoming a rock club in the ’80s through the early ’90s. It was then the location for producer Don McCollister’s Nickel & Dime Studios before a fire and subsequent water damage in late 2000 left it unusable.
With the help of three investors, Tony Longval, a onetime roadie (most recently for Florida band Sister Hazel, who’d coincidentally recorded at Nickel & Dime in the late ’90s), renovated and reopened the Avondale Towne Cinema as a music venue in August 2015. He’d previously been part owner of The Country Club, a music venue in Reseda, California. Over the past three and a half years the ATC has mostly featured local bands catering to an older crowd, along with open mic nights, karaoke, DJs, trivia, film screenings and community events. The aforementioned post on the ATC’s Facebook page closed with the following: “We are working to bring everyone another great space in Avondale. Stay tuned for details.” It’s assumed “we” includes Longval, but he has not responded to an email inquiry about the situation.
As for the future of the space, building owner Fisher Paty told the website decaturish.com that a potential new tenant was interested in operating it as a theater.
UPDATE 11/27/18: The folks behind rock bar 37 Main, which has locations in Buford and Gainesville, have applied for a conditional use permit from Avondale Estates city officials to lease the ATC space as their third location, to be open seven days a week 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. The musical bookings at the venue’s other locations are heavy on the tribute and cover bands; the touring acts they present tend to be hard rock and long-past-prime hair bands such as Zebra, Bulletboys and Kings X; no telling if they plan to continue in that vein in Avondale Estates. The original Buford location has been operating for ten years. The Gainesville location opened in 2017, after a short-lived Johns Creek outlet shut down in 2016 amid noise complaints.