Varsity Center for the Arts

418 S. Illinois Avenue,
Carbondale, IL 62901

Unfavorite 9 people favorited this theater

Showing 1 - 25 of 64 comments

stormdog on May 18, 2013 at 7:53 pm

On my trip through downstate Illinois last Summer, I shot some photos of the Varsity. Here’s a link to the first one. Subsequent ones follow on my Flickr photostream.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 20, 2012 at 6:59 pm

The 1940 Boxoffice article cited earlier identifies the architect of the Varsity Theatre as Oliver W. Stiegemeyer.

Tinseltoes on September 4, 2012 at 8:24 am

A clearer exterior photo at bottom of this page: Boxoffice

Tinseltoes on September 4, 2012 at 8:18 am

Link to 1940 article cited above by Joe Vogel: Boxoffice

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 24, 2009 at 12:21 am

Additional photographs of the Varsity illustrate an article about the recently-opened house in Boxoffice of August 17, 1940.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 3, 2009 at 8:48 pm

The February 22, 1941, issue of Boxoffice published a photo of the Varsity Theatre in Carbondale. The caption attributed the design to St. Louis architect Oliver W. Stiegemeyer.

bodkin6071 on May 3, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Picture from February 1982:
View link

spectrum on October 28, 2008 at 9:51 am

According to the article, there is still a lot of work to be done – the nlobby, intermission room and the “east” auditorium (the addition) have been refurbished; future stages call for renovating the main auditorium and balcony; total cost would be about 4.5 mil, to be completed by 2012.

melders on October 24, 2008 at 11:18 am

The Varsity is set to reopen tonight. The stage company has renovated one of the theaters and will present their first production there this weekend. They also clean-up the lobby and restored the marquee. The Southern Illinoisanhas an article and video up on their website today about the reopening.

bodkin6071 on June 4, 2008 at 6:29 pm

I also forgot to add that in either April or May they had one screen running films, more than likely it was the new third screen they had just opened. The other two theatres were still being renovated at the time.

bodkin6071 on June 4, 2008 at 11:24 am

The Varsity burned on February 16, 1981. The third theater was already constructed at the time. The fire was caused by a worker’s cutting torch, he was cutting a piece of conduit that went thru the wall between the back of the main theater and the new one. Sparks from the torch went thru the pipe and ignited some seats stacked against the wall behind the main theater. the fire then spread to a curtain on the screen and went up into the attic. The main theater was completely destroyed. The second and third theaters suffered major smoke damage. The Varsity was closed for the next three and a half months. It finally reopened for business as a triplex on June 12, 1981. The following movies shown that night were Raiders of the Lost Ark, Breaker Morant, and Clash of the Titans. A newspaper ad for June 11 proclaimed the Varsity had new seats, new decor, new sound and projection equipment, and new transitional heating and air conditioning.

The last two movies shown the day before it burned were Altered States and Charlie Chan and the Curse of The Dragon Queen.

brent17 on May 28, 2008 at 2:49 pm

I’m looking for some info about the Varsity.

Could tlogan, melders, chris bodkin or anyone else that went to the theater or knows something about it email me.

my address is


bodkin6071 on April 24, 2008 at 7:27 pm

When exactly did the Varsity catch fire? i know it happened while they were twinning it, but exactly whe? This info would be appreciated.

melders on March 2, 2008 at 1:57 am

I’d link to the article in the local paper, but they are unreliable as to how long they keep articles on their website so I’ll just review what they plans are right now. The Stage Company plans to build a stage in one of the theaters and move in this fall. It will sit about 140-150. They then plan to work on the bigger theater, seating about 300, and have it ready sometime in the future. They plan to spruce up the small theater in the balconey and show movies in it, possibly foreign films. They plan to work on restoring the lobby, which does appear to need some work as it is painting in what appears to be plan white house paint. They also would like to work on the exterior.

melders on March 2, 2008 at 1:52 am

The theater offically was given to the city this week, who then turned it over to the Stage Company. The local news showed the interior, and to my suprise, it appeared to be in great condition. Looked almost like it had been empty a couple weeks, not almost 5 years. Of course I wasn’t there so can’t really say for sure.

The Company claims to already have over $100,000 dollars ready to use, which is probably true considering they have been fundraising for a new home for 3 or so years.

tlogan on January 13, 2008 at 11:04 pm

The Varsity theater in Carbondale, Illinois is mentioned by a character in the 1980’s television series “Fame”, as the place where the school principal served as an usher while in college in the early 1950’s. From the conviction with which the line was delivered one gets the feeling that either the actor in question or the writer of that scene actually had that particular life experience.

RobertEndres on November 19, 2007 at 12:32 pm

I should add, that while GKC was operated out of Springfield, the North/South split wasn’t entirely geographical. GKC ran theatres into upstate Illinois and I think, Indianna and Michigan, while also running theatres to the south. They shied away from Chicago, at least in part because of the strength of Local #110 at the time. Carbondale was probably as far south at they went.

RobertEndres on November 19, 2007 at 12:28 pm

There are two Kerasotes circuit (or were). There was a family argument and some theatres became GKC Theatres (for George Kerasotes), and the other, Kerasotes Theatres. Bloomington and Champaign/Urbana, Illinois were GKC Theatres out of the original Springfield home base, while Galesburg theatres were operated by Kerasotes out of Chicago. The GKC Theatres have now been sold to another circuit (Cinemark?)in the last couple of years.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on November 19, 2007 at 10:19 am

I’m not sure the statement above regarding maintenance is fair. Kerasotes is investing a lot of money to update the twenty year-old Webster Place on Clybourn Ave. in Chicago. Maybe it is a property by property attitude. If I am a business owner, and I see a particular asset as less important, I am not going to throw a lot of money at it.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on November 16, 2007 at 7:01 pm

small? That photo shows so much more detail than the photo I posted on Sep 5, 2006.

kencmcintyre on November 16, 2007 at 5:37 pm

Here is a small photo of the Varsity:

melders on November 16, 2007 at 5:29 pm

Great news! Kerasotas has donated the theater to the city, and the city plans to renovate it and use it as a performance center for local theater groups.

35divmp on October 5, 2007 at 11:15 pm

Keresotes Theatres has always been a “penny-pincher” type of company. Upkeep and maintenance is NOT part of their language.

I remember the Varsity well… Saw Animal House there in the late 1970s, my friends and I loved it (we also had been drinking at the American Pub, PKs, and Merlins prior).

sphyde on January 1, 2007 at 12:45 pm

the amc/univesity 8 (by wal-mart) has simply been changed to Kerasotes University 8.

to add to melders statement of “yes they kept it open”, this is true, however, it seems as if they have done little to upgrade/improve the existing state of the facilites. yes, they finally got new seating, however, i do not think the company respects the people of southern illinois, b/c in no way have they “wowed” anyone with their facilities. Examples: chairs that mold to your body, arm rest that move so couples can snuggle, etc).

also, karesotes seemingly does little to improve the variety of movies one can see. between the three theatres they have (2 in c'dale, 1 in marion) if there’s something that’s missing from carbondale, the nearest place you could go to watch it would be st. louis, b/c there’s a 99% chance that it won’t be featured in marion.

it’s all about the bottom dollar, not about the quality of service.