Ritz Theatre

950 Fairfax Avenue,
Carlyle, IL 62231

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The Grand Theatre opened on September 3, 1928 with 483 seats. It was built by Dominic Gill and his father-in-law, C. Auge of West Frankfurt. Inside the auditorium seating was in orchestra and balcony levels, and upon its opening Miss Elizabeth List furnished the music.

It was renamed Ritz Theatre in May 1941, when it was sold to Charles Beninati by Dominic Gill. Beninati, who was a nephew to Dominic Frisina, spent $10,000 on alterations and improvements including a new marquee, screen, acoustical treatment and projection equipment. On May 22, 1943, a fire started backstage about 1:00am causing the theatre to close for ten days. All new equipment was installed along with the interior being redecorated and remodeled. In 1946, Deane Ducomb quit as assistant manager to Beninati at the Ritz Theatre to run the Princess Theatre in nearby Beckemeyer, IL.

The Ritz Theatre was very popular back in the 1950’s, being one of the very few buildings in the area with air conditioning. In March 1953, Beninati installed a new ‘high intensity’ fibre screen. In February 1964, Deane Ducomb took over as manager of the Ritz Theatre and the Car Breeze Drive-In Theatre in Carlyle. The equipment was purchased by the Kaskaski Theatre Co. from Beninati, who ran the theatre for 23 years. Ownership of the theatre was still retained by Dominic Gill of Carlyle.

The Ritz Theatre was closed in 1985 after 57 years of operation. In 1992, the former operator Deane ‘Doozer’ Ducomb died aged 72.

The building was slated for demolition, when it suffered a fire in 1993, and was torn down shortly after. It had been sold to the County, and is now an open parking lot.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft, Darren Schmeink

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

dschmeink
dschmeink on December 13, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Does anyone have any more pictures of this theatre?? I’d love to see them.

dschmeink
dschmeink on December 13, 2009 at 8:16 pm

The actual address is 950 Fairfax, not 970. And it seated 300, not 473.

dschmeink
dschmeink on December 14, 2009 at 7:55 am

Thanks to whoever made the changes. ;–)

dschmeink
dschmeink on December 15, 2009 at 7:41 am

Thank you again to whoever updated the summary of the theatre. I will share it with local citizens who would love to see this. I’ll possibly try to find more information/photos if possible.

dschmeink
dschmeink on January 29, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Another tidbit – the building was 40x100 feet. Not a huge complex but average for a small town at the time.

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