Many Avon residents recall the days when it cost less than a dollar to see a film at the Park Theatre. The theatre has been closed for years and now serves as a place where the current owner stores collectibles and antiques. But memories of the good old days at the Park are beginning to creep back into people’s minds.
"I have a lot of memories of the Park Theatre when I was in school and saw a lot of classic movies there,” said Bob Westfall. “It's a great place and I think it’s good for the community so I hope it happens."
Hope is that plans to revive the theatre as a community center come to fruition. It's a vision Avon native Paul Brown came up with after recently returning to the area.
"Here I am looking around saying 'ok, what does a retired theatre guy, English teacher, music teacher, what do I do with my spare time?'” Brown asked himself. “There sits an empty building just crying to do something beside be empty and I have done this before."
That was back in the 1990's when Brown restored the Smith Opera House in Geneva. Billy Joel played there in 1996.
Brown says he doesn't expect to draw shows of that caliber to the Park. Instead, he's looking at movies on weekends with community events occupying the theatre during the week. He also has a plan to add a cafe that would be run by students from the Avon Central School District.
"The business department at the high school and Bruce Amey, the superintendent, are around the edges of making that sort of thing happen,” said Brown. “So teen involvement is going to be another strong element, we hope, of the on going operation."
The Park Theatre has been closed since 2003. Bob D’Angelo, the project’s communications director, said his cousin was the last owner to offer films there. He said she purchased the Park from the local VFW, which had operated the movie house since the 1960’s.
"I know it was very emotional for her to just hand it over to anyone,” said D’Angelo. “She had her heart and soul in this building. She's a flight attendant by trade but jockeyed her flight attendant full-time job in order to operate this on weekends."
Lindsey Mey opened “40 Winks,” a bedroom furniture store, in February. It's located just three doors from the Park Theatre. She believes the community center plan will help her fledging business.
"I think it's going to bring more traffic in,” said Mey. “But I'm just really excited that the kids are going to have something else to do that has to do with the arts."
A public hearing on the project is set for 7:00 p.m. Thursday evening at the Avon Village Hall. If all goes well, Brown plans to reopen the Park Theatre by late next summer.