Deerpath Theatre

272 E. Deerpath Road,
Lake Forest, IL 60045

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Deerpath Theatre

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The Deerpath Theatre, in the northern Chicago suburb of Lake Forest, opened in 1928. It was designed by the firm of Betts and Holcomb, who were also responsible for designing the Catlow in Barrington (among several other Chicagoland area theaters).

Both theaters were designed in a neo-Tudor style, though the interior decor differed and the Deerpath had a balcony.

The Deerpath remained open until the mid-80s. After it closed, it was converted into a shopping center.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

andrewgage on March 8, 2007 at 10:05 am

Lake Forest has had relatively few historical losses over the years, and I count among them Villa Turricum and the Deerpath Theatre. The Deerpath was a charming theatre with a stage and a pipe organ, and two ranks of pipes flanking the screen, with as I recall, a pair of the comedy/tragedy masks decorating the pipe enclosures. I think there was even a small orchestra pit in front of the stage/screen. I vaguely recall some heavy old-English-styled chandeliers hanging from the ceiling as well… but it was so long ago, I’m not sure.

I think the Deerpath suffered from bad management for many years, which ultimately led to its demise, aided by the era of VHS. Unlike its rival, the Highland Park Theatre which showed first-run movies, the Deerpath only screened re-runs. I saw “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Gone With The Wind,” “The Wizard of OZ,” and “Cabaret” there for the first time, all first-rate pictures but in their second- third- twentieth-runs. The only movie I know of that premiered at the Deerpath was “Thank God It’s Friday”…

I never saw the Deerpath after its remodeling, but I was told the balcony was sectioned off into private booths, and the seats were replaced. It seemed a shame, the direction it was headed.

How sad it is to think that a city like Lake Forest could have let its only in-town movie theatre bite the dust and become a (egads!) shopping mall! The theatre had a stage, for god’s sake. A better management team might have welcomed local theatre groups (such as Group For…) and orchestral groups to perform there. That opportunity is now gone.

Silly things I remember about the Deerpath: The floors were often sticky with spilled soda (they didn’t clean the theatre very well I guess); going to the corner Baskin-Robbins for ice cream after every show; my parents forbidding me to sit in the balcony (where all the stoners used to hang out).

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 8, 2007 at 10:25 am

That is an interesting point. The Winnetka Community House, which sits in the middle of a town with almost identical demographics, has a steady flow of events. Maybe Lake Forest missed the boat on this one.

jeanfilkins on May 1, 2008 at 8:30 pm

Very fond memories of the Deerpath Theatre in the 70s: amen to the sticky floors, the 1920s Tudor revival decor and bargain that was the Saturday matinée— generally a very oddly matched double feature for about a dollar. Blinking in the bright light of a summer afternoon after watching “Lost Horizon” and “Westworld”… heady stuff. The interior signage was thematic and “ye olde,” too; I still remember the decorative font used in the signs over the interior doors. Warner Brothers' Robin Hood Gothic Bold. (As a kid I puzzled over the word “aisle” for ages— what could it mean?)
Andrew Gage, I must ask: did you graduate from LFHS?

andrewgage on November 2, 2008 at 11:34 am

Despite most predictions to the contrary, yes I did graduate from LFHS. How ya doin' “Feetsy” Filkins? It’s been a long long time hasn’t it?

jeanfilkins on November 2, 2008 at 4:14 pm

Andy! Yay! I would love to hear what you’ve been up to in the past… decades… could you e-mail me at jeanlass @ gmail .com? I don’t think it would be good form to shanghai this thread with discussions of 9th grade chorus.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on April 22, 2009 at 12:14 pm

The Deerpath in 1982:

View link

I don’t remember this theatre being twinned, and yet there is a big “2” on the marquee. Curious.

balabankatz on October 23, 2009 at 11:15 pm

It was not a twin. It was remodeled in the very early 80’s and the organ was even restored. It was reopened as the Deerpath 2. Airline seats, private rooms (back of the main floor) good for crying babies, early satellite TV (in the lobby and private rooms), and a rockin Dolby stereo sound system. Pink Floyd The Wall was there right after it reopened. Another cool theater that died due to the Loews / CO multiplex build mania then bankruptcy.

jwballer on April 2, 2010 at 4:39 pm

So where the organ now?

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on August 29, 2010 at 11:23 pm

From the early 1900s a photo of the Deerpath Theatre in Lake Forest.

orsonwellescinema on April 9, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Here’s some additional background information on the Deerpath Theatre. It’s from a 2007 interview with actress Joan Taylor (1929-2012), who passed away on last month –

Q: When did you get the itch to start to perform?

My mom was a dancing teacher, and my dad became the manager of a motion picture theater in Lake Forest, Illinois. It was called the Deerpath Theater — a lot of deer used to go past there down to Lake Michigan. We would go to movies at my dad’s theater on Friday nights, Shirley Temple was on the screen and, whoops, all of a sudden I wanted to do “On the Good Ship Lollipop” [laughs]! My first job was as a cashier in his theater. My mom would never let me wear slacks, but I made $13 my first week as a cashier and of course the first thing I did was buy a pair of beautiful wool slacks for $13. I earned that money, so I could go buy myself what I wanted!”

Q: What did it feel like to be 20 years old and sixth-billed in your first movie?

Felt good [laughs]. It felt really good! Of course, going from stage to movies, you have to [modify your acting]. The same way that boiling water has to be covered with a lid, you’ve got to keep things in; you don’t throw things to the back of the house, so to speak, as an actress on the stage would. I had to learn how to kinda hold things in a little bit. That was hard, coming from the stage. The world premiere was in Topeka, Kansas; I remember going there on a train, playing cards with Dale. At that premiere, there was a parade and there was the mayor and duh-dah duh-dah duh-dah [laughs], because there was Randolph Scott and also Dale Robertson, who became a star after that picture. Again, it was great. Then I went on into Chicago and was met by the newspaper people, and pictures in the newspaper, and all of the Hollywood stuff.

Q: Back in your own home state.

Yes! Then we went into Lake Forest and we had a “premiere” at my dad’s theater—with, of course, pictures of me putting my own name up on my dad’s marquee. “Home Town Girl Makes Good”!

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