Catalina Casino


The Catalina Casino is a large gathering facility located in Avalon, California, Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, California, Santa Catalina Island, off the coast of Los Angeles in California. It is the largest building on the island and the most visible landmark in Avalon Bay when approaching the island from the mainland. The large building contains a movie theater, ballroom, and formerly an island art and history museum.Catalina Island Museum
/ref> The Catalina Casino gets its name from the Italian language term ''casino'', meaning a "gathering place". Contrary to the current common usage of casino, this has never been a facility for Catalina Casino


The Catalina Casino was built on a site formerly known as Sugarloaf Point. The site was graded for the planned construction of the Hotel St. Catherine, which was instead eventually built in Descanso Canyon. When chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. bought the controlling stake in Catalina Island in 1919, he used this cleared site to build a dance hall he named Sugarloaf Casino. It served as a ballroom and Avalon's first high school, until it became too small for Avalon's growing population. In 1928, the Sugarloaf was razed to make room for a newer casino building. Sugarloaf Rock was further blasted away to enhance the Casino's ocean view. On May 29, 1929, the new Catalina Casino was completed under the direction of Wrigley and David Malcolm Renton, David M. Renton, at a cost of $2 million. Its design, by Sumner Spaulding and Walter Weber, is in the Art Deco architecture, Art Deco and Mediterranean Revival architecture, Mediterranean Revival styles. The casino's movie theater was the first to be designed specifically for Sound film, films with sound ("talkies"). It received the Honor Award from the California Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, as "one of the outstanding architectural accomplishments". With a height equal to a 12-story building, it was built to serve as a theater on the main floor and a ballroom and promenade on the upper level. Movie studio moguls such as Cecil B. DeMille, Louis B. Mayer, and Samuel Goldwyn frequently came by yacht to the Casino to preview their newest cinema productions. It also serves as the island's civil defense shelter, large enough to accommodate Catalina's entire year-round population. Within its walls is stored enough food and water for all Avalon's residents for two weeks. The steel structure of the predecessor Sugarloaf Casino can still be found in Avalon's abandoned bird park. The bird park was conceived by Mrs. Wrigley in the 1930s, and at the time it was one of the largest aviary, aviaries in the world. In 1993 the movie theater was photographed by Hiroshi Sugimoto for his art series "Theatres". In 1994, the theater underwent a $750,000 Conservation and restoration of cultural heritage, restoration that reupholstered all of its seats and cleaned its murals. In September 2008, the Catalina Casino had the first live full production of a musical on its stage, when the Santa Catalina Island Company presented Grease (musical), ''Grease!''. In December 2019, The Catalina Island Company stopped screening First run (filmmaking), first run showings of movies, essentially ceasing its function as a traditional film venue. They cite the rise of streaming services and large use of satellite television in the small town of 4000 as contributing factors to the theater's low attendance. However, the theater remain available for daily tours and special events such as the Catalina Film Festival and Silent Film Benefit.


Surrounded by sea on three sides, the circular structure of the Catalina Casino is the equivalent of 12 Storey, stories tall. It has a movie theater on the first level and a ballroom on the top level. The building interiors were decorated in the Art Deco style, including with sterling silver and Gold leaf, gold-leaf accents.

Movie theater

The Avalon Theatre is a movie theater on the first level, with a seating capacity of 1, Avalon Theater
/ref> It has a single massive Avalon Theater walking tour
/ref> The theater has its original 4-manual, 16 rank pipe organ built by the Page Organ Company of Lima, Ohio. The theater is sound insulated so that patrons do not hear the band or up to 3,000 dancers in the ballroom above. The circular domed ceiling has notable Acoustical engineering, acoustics and has been studied by acoustical designers, due to its repute. A speaker on the theater stage can speak in a normal voice without a microphone and be heard clearly by all in attendance. The theater's interior walls retain the original Art Deco murals by John Gabriel Beckman. The theater's facade had a painted mural of an Art Deco-style underwater world scene, which was later replaced with replications of Beckman's design created in Catalina Pottery-style tiles. The lobby has walnut wood paneling.


The upper-level houses the 20,000-square-foot Catalina Casino Ballroom. It is the world's largest circular ballroom, with a diameter dance floor that can accommodate 3,000 dancers. French doors encircle the room connecting the dance floor with the Romance Promenade, an open balcony that runs around the building. To reach the ballroom on the top level, the Casino building has two ramped walkways, both in enclosed towers that extend out from the circular building. Wrigley took the idea to use ramps instead of stairs from Wrigley Field, his Chicago Cubs stadium. The ramps allowed the large numbers of people using the ballroom to quickly move to and from their destinations. They each have a small lobby area just below the dance floor level.

Catalina Island Museum

In 1953, Philip K. Wrigley established the Catalina Island Museum on the first level, to preserve the history of the island from the pre-Columbian indigenous Tongva (''Gabrielino'') peoples through the pre-war 20th-century development by his father. The museum featured a large and comprehensive collection of original Catalina Pottery ceramics, produced by Catalina Clay Products between 1927 and 1937. On June 18, 2016, the museum relocated to a new building, located approximately one half mile from its original location in the Catalina Casino. The Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building is located at 217 Metropole Avenue. The museum continues documenting Catalina Island history, adding from World War II to the present day, and a research institute. It is the Information repository, repository for all archeological digs on the island, and has one of the largest collections of Tongva artifacts in the world. There are now more than 10,000 photographs and Negative (photography), negatives documenting island life from the early 1880s until the present day in the museum's photography collection.

In popular culture

* A portion of the 1974 film ''Chinatown (1974 film), Chinatown'' was filmed on Catalina Island, featuring cinematic shots of the Casino. * In 1984, Catalina Island and the Casino were filming locations for the ''Airwolf'' episode "Sins of the Past". A replica of the Casino was set ablaze in the episode. * After players complete the 2020 action-adventure video game ''The Last of Us Part II'', the main menu screen changes to a beachfront with a rowboat in the foreground and the Casino in the background, implying that List of The Last of Us Part II characters#Abby, Abby has finally reached the Casino to reunite with her former group.


External links

{{commons category, Catalina Casino
Santa Catalina Island Company: official ''Catalina Casino'' website

Catalina Island Museum
– ''formerly located in the Catalina Casino''. Avalon Theatre
– ''article by movie theatre preservation organization''. Santa Catalina Island (California) Ballrooms in the United States Theatres in Los Angeles County, California Buildings and structures in the Channel Islands of California Buildings and structures in Los Angeles County, California Museums in Los Angeles County, California History museums in California Theatres completed in 1929 1929 establishments in California Event venues established in 1929 Tourist attractions in Los Angeles County, California Art Deco architecture in California Mediterranean Revival architecture in California Cinemas and movie theaters in Los Angeles County, California Public venues with a theatre organ