126 W. Church Street,
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The Park Theatre, as it was originally known, was opened in late 1913 by a local businessman, B. H. Cooper, in downtown Champaign.
However, the Park Theatre didn’t have it’s ‘official’ grand opening until several months later, when a pipe organ was installed to accompany the epic spectacle, “The Last Days of Pompeii”.
In 1929, the Park Theatre began to show sound films, and not long after, Cooper sold the theater to the LaSalle-based Alger Theatres chain, who ran the Park Theatre as a ‘poor cousin’ to Champaign’s two largest and much more ornate theaters, the Orpheum Theatre and the Virginia Theatre.
From the late-1940’s on, it would mostly screen B-grade Westerns and comedies. The Park Theatre was closed in 1958.
The Art Theater Guild reopened the Park later the same year, renaming it the Art Theatre, to put the focus on the films which would now be shown there — foreign and industrial features, the first being “The Red and the Black”.
For another decade, the Art Theatre would be the premiere house in the Champaign-Urbana area for alternative fare, including an Ingmar Bergman festival, revivals of such classics as “Citizen Kane” and “Beat the Devil” and, in 1967, a series called ‘Underground Cinema’ which featured avant-garde works by Andy Warhol, Maya Deren and Bruce Connor on Friday and Saturday nights.
Urbana-native Roger Ebert would call the Art Theatre the place he ‘learned about the art of film’.
However, by 1969, the theater’s ownership switched to adult films. The Art Theatre remained a porn house until it closed in 1986.
On New Years' Day 1987, the Art Theatre was bought by John Manley, Ron Epple and Tom Angelica who renovated the run-down theater and reopened it as a venue once again for foreign and art features. The partners decided to change the theater’s name to the New Art Theatre, to break with the assocation the Art Theatre had with adult fare for so long.
The New Art closed in February of 2003, but later reopened, once more showing foreign and industrial films. It was then owned and run by the same owners of the historic Lorraine Theatre in Hoopeston.
In December 2009, new owners took over and it was renamed Art Theatre once more
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