Evanston 5 Theaters

1716 Central Street,
Evanston, IL 60201

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Evanston I Theater photo courtesy of the Evanston Back In The Day Facebook page.

The Art Moderne style Stadium Theater opened April 16, 1937, with a champagne gala and the movie “Champagne Waltz”.

By the late-1940’s, the Stadium Theatre ceased showing films, and was hosting stage shows, a practice which continued into the 1950’s.

In 1956, the Magill family purchased the theater, and transformed it back into a movie house. (They also opened another screen down the street.)

It was remodeled in 1969 and was renamed the Evanston Theater.

In the early-1980’s, Loews acquired the Evanston Theater, and it was further enlarged into five auditoriums, and renamed the Evanston 5 Theaters.

Although other Evanston movie houses closed their doors during the 1980’s and 1990’s, like the Coronet Theater and Varsity Theater, the Evanston 5 Theaters continued to draw an audience.

However, when a new 18-screen Century Cinemas megaplex opened nearby, it spelled the end of the Evanston 5 Theaters, which struggled to get the first run features that the Century was screening.

As part of its bankruptcy restructuring, the Evanston 5 Theaters was among many theaters that the Loew’s chain closed in the Chicago area, in early-2001.

In 2002 there were discussions in the city of Evanston of converting the former Evanston 5 Theaters into a performing arts center and dance studio, but the building continued to sit empty and was demolished in August 2007.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 48 comments)

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on May 27, 2009 at 8:56 pm

Generally speaking I think the City of Evanston has acted foolishly. They believed they could build thousands of condo units and reap huge tax revenues. To hell with business and industry. Now, several years on, quite a few interesting buildings have been demolished and there are many, many, many vacant units out there. The Evanston Theatre isn’t the only blight. Main St. & Chicago Ave. is another good example. Or how about the post-apocolyptic scene which faces Ridge Ave. just south of Emerson?

Maybe there is some business logic here that I am missing. But as of right now the whole thing just seems stupid.

DavidZornig on May 27, 2009 at 11:18 pm

You hit the nail on the head LTS. The only logic however was greed disguised at progress.
The City Of Evanston seemed to become WAY more pro-development, after those condos went up at and around Davis & Sherman.
Developers promised tons of multiple units with whatever many new individual tax bills for each. Plus that many more new citizens buying city vehicle stickers, shopping locally, blah blah etc.
Versus one or two bank buildings (or say theaters), with their solo tax bills. Or the city’s very own municipal multi level parking garage, which was deemed “unsafe”, and taking up valuable real estate itself.
I never thought I’d miss those “World’s Largest Garage Sales”, even after it had become rows & rows of new sweat socks & dog chews instead of collectables, but I do.

The Evanston downtown suffered the same fate my beloved Near North Side did under the eyes of former Alderman Natarus for 30+ years. That any & all development was a “bonus” to the neighborhood, and to hell with history and the logic of what over saturation would bring it.

In Evanston’s case, the fact the Northwestern University pays nothing in taxes, and has the most prime lakefront real estate in the city, surely comes into play. The self induced tax shortfalls, are all put on the backs of the homeowners, Some who have owned there since it was a sleepy small town.

I have an 84 year old friend there.
His taxes are between 10K-15K a year, WITH the senior freeze. On a house he paid off in 1970. Just blocks away from Wilmette, where a comparable homes' taxes are around 6K-7K WITHOUT a senior living in them.
His house is likely worth more torn down for the land, than it is now.
Evidenced by a McMansion that went up next to him.

Since both the developers and the city were probably blindsided by the economic turn down, they find themselves right where they deserve to be.
And the Evanston residents are left to suffer. Albeit while the formers get an undeserved “out” by blaming the economy. For what is basically justifiable punishment for their greed, lack of sympathy for local history, and lack of foresight that the condo bubble had to burst on somebody’s watch.

balabankatz on October 24, 2009 at 4:44 am

When the Evanston was an independent it was awesome. The quad of the big theater was an abortion. The smaller newer 70’s screen down the street (was a swimming pool/gym before). Then became the big great Evanston movie house. Aliens in 70mm with 6 track mag sound (wow it was just SO Great)! Loews and Cineplex killed the movies for Chicago. Too Sad!

TLSLOEWS on April 21, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Another LOEWS that I did not know about.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 18, 2010 at 3:57 am

“ZELIG” a theatre Woody Allen would like.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on October 12, 2012 at 8:16 pm

SAM Meyers was the President and film buyer of this theatre in 1956. Commonwealth Amuse, Corp.

dvarapala on June 14, 2014 at 3:28 am

For some reason I had lots of dates in this theater. :) The last movie I saw here was “Hooper” starring Burt Reynolds.

Here are some photos of the Evanston I (as it was called in my day) being demolished.

DavidZornig on November 6, 2015 at 11:10 pm

The Evanston 1 on the East end of the block can be seen shuttered at 8:11 in the below video by Jenniffer Weigel. The Evanston 1 still doesn;t seem to gave it’s own CT page. Maybe I’ll work on adding that today, once I dig up the exact address.


rivest266 on November 11, 2016 at 9:32 am

April 16th, 1937 grand opening ad as Stadium as well as the July 1st, 1955 for its reopening as Evanston. Two screens on August 29th, 1969 and 5 screens on April 19th, 1985. All 4 grand opening ads in the photo section.

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