Illini Theatre

108 E. Market Street,
Bloomington, IL 61701

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Illini Theatre, Bloomington, IL

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened in 1910 as the Chatterton Theatre, replacing the Grand Opera House which had been destroyed by fire. The Illini Theatre is listed in the 1945 Film Daily Yearbook as ‘Closed’ with seating for 1,156. It had been operated by a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures.

The former theater became part of the MARC Center, an organization which assists developementally disabled individuals. By 2011, it was operating as a comedy club.

Contributed by Bryan

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 19, 2005 at 8:13 pm

Lucca Grill is located at:
116 E Market St
Bloomington, IL 61701

That part was easy. I just can’t find any MARC center near this address. Something just isn’t right.

KenRoe on July 20, 2005 at 2:42 am

The Film Daily Yearbook’s 1941 and 1943 edition have the Illini Theater listed as ‘Closed’. It has totally disapeared from the 1950 listing.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 20, 2005 at 6:58 am

For an agency that is supposed to help people, they are more difficult to locate than a CIA office. The only “address” that I found for a Marc center in Bloomington is a P.O. Box 3548. I did a phone book search and no Marc center was listed. The search did return a Center For Human Services at 108 W Market St. That address might appear to be way off but when I mapped it, it is located right on the west side of N Main St and the Lucca Grill at 116 E Market St is right on the east side of N Main St. Its very close but probably not close enough.

RobertEndres on July 20, 2005 at 7:45 am

The Illini is indeed next door to Lucca’s Grill. I vacation in Bloomington every year (I’m still a member of the Bloomington/Peoria Stagehand’s Local), and Lucca’s is a must place to visit. Karl Blakeny, who along with his brother was an official of the Local and grew up in Bloomington has taken me on several tours of theatre sites and introduced me to Lucca’s. From their parking lot you face the back of the Illini and it’s easily identifiable as a stage house. The only trace of the theatre from the front is the pillars above the second floor, now interspersed with windows for the MARC Center. Before it was the Illini, I think it was named something else and was an early opera house. Karl says there is no trace of the former theatre left inside, and while the MARC may still utilize the space, I’ve never seen any signs of life when I go by. I’ll be back there for vacation next month, and will try to get more information from Karl.

RobertEndres on July 20, 2005 at 1:04 pm

I just got an e-mail from a person I know in Bloomington who says the MARC Center has moved. There’s now a sign on the door of the Illini that says, “Studio 222” but he hasn’t poked his head in to see what they do.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 20, 2005 at 1:20 pm

Thanks REndres. Nice work! I knew there was something wrong when I couldn’t located that MARC center. I just did a search for the Studio 222 and it is listed under art museum and gallery. It is located at 108 East Market Street. That sounds like a good address for the Illini Theater.

RobertEndres on August 31, 2005 at 6:15 am

I was in Bloomington on vacation and picked up the following additional information about the Illini from a framed copy of a newspaper article about it on the wall in Luccas Grill next door:

The theatre was originally named the Chatterdon after the owner who also had theatres in Springfield and Danville, Illinois. It was built in 1910 to replace the Grand Opera House which had burned (there are shots of that theatre after the fire in a book of photographs of early Bloomington.) The Chaatterdon was built in 1910, and among stars who appeared on stage there were Ed Wynn, Ethel Barrymore, Mae Westg and Lillian Russell. It became a film house as the Illini in 1924 adnd closed around 1933, although for a time after that it was used for Community Players productions around 1946. After that State Farm used the space for offices, and presumeably removed any vestigaes of the Illini’s theatrical past, although from the outside the building still retains much of the look of the Chatterdon.

Bruce C.
Bruce C. on November 17, 2009 at 8:53 am

The Illini Theatre currently is the TG Center (see my picture posted above). I am not sure what that is and I can’t find it listed online.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 31, 2011 at 6:51 am

The AKA should be spelled Chatterton. Here is a web page with pretty much the same information about the Chatterton Opera House/Illini Theatre that is in RobertEndres earlier comment, but with the additional information that the Chatterton was designed by local architect George H. Miller.

Allen_Abel on January 3, 2012 at 6:29 am

There is now a comedy club operating in this theater.

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