The historic Athens Theatre is located in downtown DeLand, Florida. Construction began on the theatre in 1921, with opening night commencing on January 6th, 1922. It was, at that time, the crown jewel of DeLand, and anyone who was “someone” attended the opening night gala. It was designed by well-known Orlando architect, Murray S. King in the Italian Renaissance style. The DeLand Daily News declared the theatre to be “Florida’s Handsomest Theatre” and a “gem of architecture.” Opening night performance included several vaudeville acts, a live theatre performance, as well as a movie.

The Athens Theatre was so-named from founder, Henry DeLand’s vision of creating a city that would be the “Athens of Florida.” City historian, Bill Dreggors, recounts “during the Depression, the Athens Theatre was the only entertainment people could afford. The DeLand Amusement Corporation charged only nine cents (for children) because if it was a dime they’d have to pay the state entertainment tax. Later, promotions with RC Cola allowed patrons to enter free with six RC bottle caps.” Originally a vaudeville house and silent movie palace, the Athens Theatre featured live stage shows by touring performers, as well as films of the day that were often accompanied by the theatre’s Wurlitzer Pipe Organ.

Over the years, the theatre evolved from a fine theatre and movie house to a community theater and place for prom parties, then a restaurant and a pizza, beer and teen night spot. The building was renovated in the 1950s, but thereafter started to deteriorate and was finally closed in the early 1990s. However, many citizens recognized the historical significance that the theatre played in the town’s heritage, and a grassroots effort began to restore it to its’ original splendor. In 1993, it became part of the MainStreet Deland Association with the help of a matching grant from the Florida Bureau of Historic Preservation. In July, 2004, ownership was transferred to Sands Theater Center, Inc. Today, the Athens Theatre is used for live performances, musicals, concerts, independent art films, classic movies and film festivals.


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