Highland Park Theatre

445 Central Avenue,
Highland Park, IL 60035

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Showing 1 - 25 of 32 comments

LouRugani on January 28, 2014 at 10:44 pm

Highland Park Theater up for sale

The City of Highland Park won’t help to preserve the Highland Park Theatre and is offering the theatre for sale without restrictions and may throw in an adjoining parking lot to sweeten the deal. Monday the city learned that the non-profit Alcyon Foundation can’t raise the capital needed to restore and reopen the theatre for live performances, film festivals and private events. Mayor Nancy Rotering told reporters after a closed session “The city has exhausted numerous efforts to redevelop the property in a way that meets the goals and desires of the community, reduces the financial burden placed on residents, and complements the business community.”

There was a two-year effort to preserve the theatre, and the city was dealing with a developer on a combined condo, retail and theatre, but the agreement lapsed last February over cost concerns.

The city bought the struggling theatre for $2.1 million in 2009 in part for concerns about preservation and for the possibility for larger redevelopments. It abruptly closed in summer of 2012 after code violations came to light. It’s zoned for commercial use and has been divided into four theatres ranging from 130 to 410 seats. The city invited anyone interested, or with questions about the council’s action, to call the city manager’s office at 847-926-1000.

RiisPark on April 25, 2013 at 3:14 pm

City council to move soon on unloading the theatre, hopefully to a group willing to restore it and show movies again.

Broan on April 11, 2013 at 1:59 pm

http://blog.chicagohistory.org/index.php/2013/04/well-see-you-at-the-movies/ This blog post indicates that the Alcyon was the basis for Siskel & Ebert’s WTTW program.

RiisPark on March 12, 2013 at 4:13 pm

In 1967 I first went to the Highland Park with my girlfiend at the time, Debbie Zwierczyk. We saw a WC Fields double feature (there was a revival of Field’s work at the time). The place was packed and the laughter shook the room. What a great memory.

Bruce C.
Bruce C. on June 17, 2012 at 10:15 am

Thanks Broan! That’s really good news. I was wondering what was happening to the building.

Broan on June 17, 2012 at 6:27 am

They’re trying to reopen, so I wouldn’t hold your breath

CSWalczak on June 16, 2012 at 11:30 pm

The website lists as the contact website; if that does not work, you might want to contact the city of Highland Park, IL as the city owns the theater at (847) 432-0800 .

ejfigueroa1978 on June 16, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Does anyone have the email address for the theater? I’m looking to get my hands on a concession stand. Please email me the info.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on May 17, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Too bad. I remember seeing Superman here, as well as the first Star Trek movie. Definitely childhood highlights. This might have been the best twinning I ever saw. They split the long auditorium front to back. Both were pretty good screening rooms.

CSWalczak on May 6, 2012 at 11:13 pm

The Highland Park was shut down by the city on May 6 for fire code violations: View link.

Oddly enough, The City of Highland Park owns the theater.

jwballer on March 30, 2010 at 1:43 pm

A 3/13 Barton was installed in the theatre in 1925.

Twistr54 on August 31, 2008 at 12:02 pm

New photos taken Aug 30 2008
View link

rjacobson on July 7, 2007 at 9:59 am

I was an usher during the transition from the Alcyon to the Highland Park Theater in about 1965. I recall seeing Peyton Place on my first day – it was considered too racy for us teens – but as an usher I could see it. As a 16-year-old teenager, it seemed like fun, until the new management wanted to impress the patrons with an upscale art gallery on the second floor and films such as ballets. I recall the boredom standing around. Nonetheless, it marked a unique moment, my first job and fooling around behind the popcorn counter. I also recall that the 10-cent Coke machine poured free drinks if you just pressed the button repeatedly. What a simple life.

PearlPhotography on June 23, 2007 at 9:49 am

It was a wonderful place to work…lots of great memories of movies I’ve seen from the balcony there, great people…and a treasure trove of ornate detailing left from her Vaudeville days.

kathymoore on March 15, 2007 at 2:23 pm

I grew up in Deerfield in the late 50s and 60s. We didn’t have a theater, so the Alcyon in HP was it. I came from a family of 7 kids and my mom dropped all of us off at the theater every Saturday and left us there all day. Seeing the photos from the messages above was like looking at pictures of my childhood home. Thanks everyone for the info.

Broan on March 13, 2007 at 2:34 pm

Here are photos of this theatre.

JamesM on August 30, 2006 at 7:35 am

Does anyone know the name of the current owner of the theater?

VicLee on August 15, 2006 at 5:02 am

Here is an interesting exerpt from William Goldman who grew up in Highland Park. He is one of the great screenwriters and wrote the screenplays for movies like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “Marathon Man”, “The Princess Bride” and alot more novels. I found it interesting how after his entire career…he talks about this movie theater.

This is from his book “Adventures in the Screen Trade”:

“Because of my Hollywood work, I have seen films on three continents and in at least twice that many foreign countries.

But for me, still, always, it is the Alcyon….

Certainly not a great movie theatre. Probably not even a very good one. But the Alcyon stands alone in memory because it stood alone on Central, even then an aging monopoly; if you wanted to go to the movies in Highland Park, Illinois, in the 1930’s, it was the Alcyonâ€"or it was no movie at all.

And the thought of no movie at all was just too painful.

Even when I was six and seven and eight, I was hooked. I suppose I still am, but the stuff I see today often vanishes, while the Alcyon remains."

I pretty much feel the same way about this movie theater…almost…well kinda like a church. The next time I ever make it back to Chicago…I’ll have to see how the 4 screens turned out. I bet it sucks.

Broan on August 14, 2006 at 6:40 am

I’ll explain my reasoning for why I think Betts & Holcomb had a relationship to this building. First, as the article I typed below notes, B&H and Mann had adjacent offices in one building and then moved together to another. They obviously must have been very close aquaintances. It’s very unusual to see Tudor-style theaters, yet the Chicago area had 5 – The Glen Ellyn, the Catlow (Barrington), the Villard (Villa Park), the Deerpath (Lake Forest), and the Alcyon. B&H designed the first 3, and are usually attributed as the designers of the Deerpath, although sometimes it is attributed to Stanley D. Anderson, a prominent Lake Forest architect who did parts of the nearby tudor-style Market Square shopping center. However, if you compare the Catlow to pictures of the Deerpath, many of the design features are exactly the same. It is therefore quite likely that Betts & Holcomb designed the theater entirely and Anderson was listed as the architect of record due to his local connections; or Anderson may have worked with B&H and been credited as its architect. I think a similar situation might have happened with Mann, who had a much clearer connection to B&H. Like Anderson, Mann had local connections as a Highland Park architect. And like Anderson, Mann had not designed a theater previously. Surely there was influence from the architects next door who had designed 5 similar theaters. Also the present owner of the theater said B&H were the architects. That said, the Alcyon is different in a number of ways from the other B&H theaters i’ve seen (Des Plaines, Catlow, Deerpath).

Chicago Tribune, April 25, 1926
The group of architects who for several years have maintained studios on the roof of the Ashland block [note: Now site of the Daley Center] in a sort of enlarged bungalow hooked up with the 16th floor by a mointain climbing circular iron stairway, have all decided to trek to more convenient quarters elsewhere in the loop.
Olsen & Urbain will move on May 1 to suite 2128 in the new Metropolitan block. Their phone will remain the same. Raymond Gregori also will move to the Metropolitan.
Betts & Holcomb will journey eastward along Randolph to the new Masonic temple [Oriental Theater Building], now nearing completion at the site of the old Iroquois (Colonial) theater. They will occupy suite 1809 [note: Now County Offices]. What their phone number will be remains a mystery as yet unsolved. William D. Mann also will move from the Ashland to the new Masonic temple.”

wendygraham on August 9, 2006 at 5:04 am

As the granddaughter of the architect, I am submitting this info written by my mother:

My father, William D. Mann, moved his Chicago office to Highland Park, IL in the mid 1920’s. Highland Park was his home since 1912 and he designed many English Tudor, French Provincial and Colonial style homes there. He toured England and Normandy, France in 1929.

Upon completion of the Alcyon Theatre, the theatre owner gave all members of the Mann family a 2 year movie pass. This was especially delightful for the 7 children. Mr Mann was disappointed when they decorated the indoor ceiling’s wood slats with colorful designs. He preferred the solid brown stain. The firm of Betts & Holcomb is not familiar to me.

VicLee on July 21, 2006 at 10:13 am

I was an usher at the Highland Park Theater in 1975 and 1976. I have fond memories of this place. Back then it was still just one screen but you could feel the history of the place even back then. In back of the screen was like an old playhouse with old dressing rooms and wardrobes still there…kinda spooky but cool. They must have also put on stage plays there a long time ago. Changing the lights in the ceiling of the theater was an adventure. You had to climb an old ladder behund the screen and make sure U didnt fall thru the ceiling while changing the lights. Even in the 70’s the old balcony was closed by the fire dept. but it was great for an usher to take his dates up there…we had the whole balcony to ourselves! I used to superglue a quarter on the sidewalk in front just to watch people trying to pick it up. Hey ushering can be boring during the movie! I still think of that place for some reason….even after 30 years. Kinda sad its 4 screens now. But such is economics, I still vividly remember every nook and cranny of that place.

Broan on May 30, 2006 at 3:47 am

I spoke to the very friendly owner the other day actually; he said that the theater has a large base of loyal customers and that although the Renaissance multi a few blocks away took maybe 10% of business away; however it also helped open the local audience to art films, which is now the specialty. It’s really a very neat place, and it’s worth seeing just to look at the way they split it. It’s a very high-quality split; they put the wall halfway between the back wall and the stage so the main house is only split into two pretty sizable theaters with very big screens. A corridor was made along the side of the rear theater, and the partition wall was plastered and paneled to look like the original wall. This was extended into a former exit corridor to reach the third screen on the stage, which is more of a shoebox, but still decently done. The fourth screen, also a shoebox is built out of dead space upstairs and is accessed by the old stairs to the balcony. The small horseshoe balcony is used to access the various projection booths. It’s all very cleverly done. The owner also confirmed my architect information.

General Cinemas were often really just called CINEMA or CINEMA I & II or so on. The town name was just tacked on to differentiate them.