by Michael R. Allen
Franchon and Marco (later Arthur Theatres) built the Regal Theater on Easton Avenue (later named for Martin Luther King) in 1937, with their regular architect Arthur Stauder as the likely designer. Stauder designed the same chain’s Avalon Theater on South Kingshighway, which opened just two years earlier. The 846-seat theater cost $15,000.00 to build, and was an impressive three-story buff-brick Art Deco composition. The first floor was clad in lovely blue marble, enhancing the dreamy atmosphere of the movies, while the upper two floors emphasized the linear geometry of the brickwork. End bays carries alternating vertical bands of two brick tones, while the central section carried zig-zag bands above and below a central checkerboard-patterned area. Inside, the finish was not as exciting. A balcony contained 200 of the theater’s seats, and the restrooms were oddly located on the balcony level.
The theater closed in 1986. A photograph of the theater circa 2002, when it still had its vertical sign, appears in Eric Postâ€™s book of nighttime photographs, Ghost Town.
Sadly, the theater never found a new life, and fell into the hands of the city governmentâ€™s real estate agency, which proved to be a neglectful steward. While the area declined, new development spurred by the demolition of federally-subsidized high-rise housing never included this grand movie theater, which could have provided an excellent community space in a neighborhood lacking many ties to its past. In early 2006, the city had the Regal Theater demolished to make way for a church parking lot expansion.
Coincidentally, Chicago also had a Regal Theater, albeit one more famous than the one in St. Louis. The Regal Theater in Chicago was also located on a street named for Martin Luther King, but met its demise in 1973.