Illini Theatre

1611 Fifth Avenue,
Moline, IL 61265

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The Illini at its opening

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Illini Theatre opened in 1941 with seating for 1,499. This was one of the larger houses in Moline and it was operated by Tri States Theatres.

It closed in 1951 and the theatre burned down.

Contributed by Chuck

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 10, 2007 at 6:31 am

This first opened in 1941 and was considered one of the “Architectural Achievements” of that year by the editors of the 1942 Film Daily Year Book. Wetherell & Harrison were credited as architects.

The FDYB citation said “Problem poised by this project for Tri State Theater Corp., was to build an 800-seat house on a 40 x 150 ft. downtown lot, which held a defunct bank building, 27 ft. wide inside and 100 ft. long. It was possible to squeeze in a 176-seat balcony under the old roof trusses, and to get 632 seats on the main floor. All chairs are 19” and 20" with 33-inch spacing downstairs and 34" in the balcony. Balcony construction is steel riser plates with concrete treads.

“The additional footing load occasioned by the mezzanine and balcony presented a problem, as all footings had to be within the lot line, and the old footings were of L section with the old floor acting as a tie between the walls. Thus the whole concrete basement section acted as a rigid box, but when they cut the old floor to allow for the auditorium slope, the walls tended to collapse outwards. The problem was solved by running several transverse concrete diaphragms across the building, widened at the bottom to allow additional footing bearing, and with enough steel at the top to take all the tension and properly anchoring into the old concrete basement walls. The 50 foot extension that was built was handled in a similar manner.

“Exterior decoration is unsymmetrical, with blue and tan terra cotta to the canopy line, and face brick above with a large panel of precast blue squares. Inside there is a large lobby and foyer, with two sets of stairs to the mezzanine lounge and restrooms. The stairs then continue for six more risers to the midpoint of the balcony. Ceilings and walls in the auditorium are plaster with integral metallic color, with all curves designed to center as far away as possible from any seats.”

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 10, 2007 at 1:50 pm

I believe that the seating capacity listed in the introduction is incorrect. In fact, the figures for “Seats” and in the text don’t even match. The article that I cited from the 1942 Film Daily Year Book said 800 seats, and Bryan Krefft’s post of 3/28/06 says 807. Those figures don’t match either, but I think they’re probably closer to the truth than 1,469 or 1.499.

Hodson on November 12, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Could this possibly be an incorrect address? The 1600 block is all older buildings, no “empty” spot or newer building where the theater would have been. I remember going to this theater as a child and think that it was nearer to the former LeClair Hotel, which would put it in the 1800 block.

Hodson on November 12, 2013 at 9:45 pm

I just read the blurb about the LeClaire Theater, which might have explained my confusion that I mentioned above. There was a theater by the LeClaire Hotel, that must be what I am thinking of.(which I thought the name of was Illini). And I still don’t know where in the block the Illini Theater was!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 3, 2014 at 10:26 am

The Illini Theatre has not been demolished. It is listed as a contributing property in Moline’s Downtown Commercial Historic District. The structure was built in 1920 as a bank and converted into a theater in 1941. After closing as a theater it was converted into a Walgreen’s drug store. In the current Google street view the building is vacant.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 3, 2014 at 2:20 pm

There might have been a theater on the site of the Illini even before the bank that was later converted into the Illini was built in 1920. This item comes from the October 26, 1912, issue of The Moving Picture World:

“Moline, Ill — A contract has been let for the erection of a new theater for Rufus Walker. Location 1611 Fifth Avenue. Cost $12,000.”
I don’t know if Mr. Walker’s theater got built or not, but if it was it must have been demolished eight years later to make way for the bank building that became the Illini Theatre in 1941, or perhaps part of it was incorporated into the new building.

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