Evanston 5 Theaters

1716 Central Street,
Evanston, IL 60201

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Evanston 5 Theaters

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Art Deco Evanston Theater opened in 1937, with a champagne gala, as the Stadium Theater.

By the late 40s, the Stadium ceased showing films, and was hosting stage shows, a practice which continued into the 50s.

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. By this time, it had been renamed the Evanston Theater.

In the early 80s, Loews acquired the Evanston, and it was further enlarged into five auditoriums, and renamed the Evanston 5 Theaters.

Although other Evanston movie houses closed their doors during the 80s and 90s, like the Coronet and Varsity, the Evanston continued to draw an audience.

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

As part of its bankruptcy restructuring, the Evanston was among many theaters that the chain closed in the Chicago area, in early 2001.

In 2002 there were discussions in the city of Evanston of converting the former Evanston 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)

alex35mm
alex35mm on May 8, 2009 at 8:56 am

It sure is great that we now have a vacant lot where this neat place used to be.

I’m really frustrated with the city of Evanston and that they just let history be erased.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on May 27, 2009 at 12:56 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
DavidZornig on May 27, 2009 at 3:18 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
balabankatz on October 23, 2009 at 8:44 pm

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
TLSLOEWS on April 21, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Another LOEWS that I did not know about.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 17, 2010 at 7:57 pm

“ZELIG” a theatre Woody Allen would like.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on August 26, 2012 at 7:18 am

Described as the Stadium in this 1937 trade article: Boxoffice

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

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

dvarapala
dvarapala on June 13, 2014 at 7:28 pm

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.

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