Genesee Theatre

203 N. Genesee Street,
Waukegan, IL 60085

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Showing 1 - 25 of 54 comments

figaro14 on October 10, 2011 at 4:57 pm

While it was incredible that a renovation of this old movie palace ever was accomplished, it is a shame that the renovation team felt the need to alter and change the exterior marquee and entrance, going with a “modernization” look. If one is going to preserve and restore, then keep the original marquee and front of the theatre.

DavidZornig on April 27, 2010 at 5:43 am

Nice Chuck1231. We’re those some type of promotional pics at one time?
They seem a bit enhanced with photoshop or something.
The street surface is perfect in one. Plus the moon, shadows and interior details in the night shot look almost fabricated.

LouisRugani on August 30, 2009 at 5:02 am

The silver screen will be back in use at the Genesee Theatre in north suburban Waukegan starting next month. Officials are lining up a schedule of classic films to be shown with the $40,000 of projection equipment that was installed earlier this summer.

The first feature is being held close to the vest, with Mayor Robert Sabonjian telling City Council on Monday only that it will be “a true American classic.”

Genesee Executive Director Gary Zabinski said Tuesday that an exact weekend date in August, as well as the movie in question, will be announced later this week. He added that “a lineup of classic films as well as more recent ones” will be put on the schedule.

But Zabinski made it a point to say that “we’re not going to be a movie house” in the strict sense of the term.

“The Genesee is not going to revert to being a movie house where you have movies being shown there six or seven times a week,” Zabinski said. “It deserves to be more than that, and it’s proven it can be more than that. [but] I think there’s room for this.”

In announcing the installation of the equipment at Monday’s City Council meeting, Sabonjian said he hoped that the regular scheduling of movies would be part of “adopting a more businesslike attitude” at the Genesee.

Sabonjian noted that the theater requires an annual $1 million payment from the city to retire the $24 million in renovation bonds, and another $350,000 in the form of a “support payment” toward operations from the Friends of the Historic Genesee Theatre.

Zabinski said details of film offerings are still being worked out, but the general plan is to offer screenings “initially one night a week for a while” around the theater’s live performance schedule, which typically eats up weekend dates.

The purchase of projection equipment was put together by the nonprofit Friends organization, which conducts fund-raising efforts for the theater. Zabinski said the equipment — a 35 mm film projector, and a digital model with both high-definition DVD and Blu-ray capability — is a mix of new and refurbished equipment, including parts culled from vintage Genesee projectors.

Also on the entertainment front, Sabonjian said Monday that his decision to pull funding for the Waukegan Municipal Band’s lakefront concert series was made “in order to demonstrate good faith” with employees whose jobs are on the line during budget talks.

According to Sabonjian, the annual $60,000 stipend for band members would cover the salary of one full-time police officer or firefighter.

“It is not a decision I took lightly,” said Sabonjian, encouraging the Municipal Band to launch “a vigorous fund-raising effort or seek a corporate sponsorship” to float a concert series in 2010.

Band officials announced last week that they would perform the final three Tuesday night concerts on a volunteer basis. The season concludes at 7 p.m. July 28 at the lakefront’s Stiner Pavilion with a presentation of “Audience Favorites.” – from the Chicago Sun-Times

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on May 18, 2009 at 11:09 am

Here are two 1985 photos:



DavidZornig on April 14, 2009 at 10:44 pm

Just to remind anyone who is interested. The Genesee’s marquee is pretty much identical to that of the Coronado in Rockford Illinois. Shape & style, minus the various colored insets.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on September 20, 2008 at 6:36 pm

This is a September 2008 photo.

DavidZornig on August 24, 2008 at 10:03 pm

I was at the Genesee about 3 years ago to see Olivia Newton John. The theatre had been beautifully restored. One of the employees describing the original theatre said there was a tunnel underneath that brought cool water directly over from the lake, which operated as air conditioning back in the day. (And Genesee recently paid what for HVAC?)
He also said I think Jack Benny had his own special office somewhere in the building. One he could sleep in overnight if need be.
Pay for a hotel? Pleeze.

That extra lobby foyer under the marquee seemed to have been added at a later date. It’s where they staged the ticket holders prior to entry. Unfortunately the table that sold all the ONJ stuff was just inside as well. Causing a bigger back up than already happening.

Our seats were underneath the balcony wings on the left. The further back the seats were under these wings, the less you saw of the top of the stage. In ONJ’s case, she had a ever changing video montage running up & behind her during the show. This was a little difficult to see fully, but was workable.

The only real problem was, they have small speakers mounted on the underside ceilings of these wings. Presumably to increase the performer’s sound to those not directly in front of the stage. However, the overall volume even with these additional speakers, was drastically inadequate.
So much so that more than a few people kept yelling back to turn it up. To no avail. When I kindly mentioned this deficeincy to the sound engineer on the way out, he snapped as if every single person in the house had already told him the same. And boldly stated that “that is how it is”.
He also was rather rudely telling fans that “she was already long gone from the building”.
Elvis couldn’t have left that fast.

Out front was one non descript bus. So we instinctively went around back to find a much nicer bus with Oregon plates. Idling away and giving a contact diesel high to the few who were waiting by the two swinging stage doors.

I will never in my life forget, the stunned face of the poor dude who came out first to a storm of flashbulbs.
Carrying two small, metal water bowls for ONJ’s dogs.

kencmcintyre on May 4, 2008 at 9:20 pm

Here is a 1991 clip that was on youtube:

Broan on August 22, 2007 at 6:04 pm

No, it was restored under Ray Shepardson. The Cadillac Palace was under Dan Coffey.

supercharger96 on August 22, 2007 at 5:44 pm

I believe (but could be wrong) that the restoration was headed by the same people who restored the Cadillac Palace. It is not nearly as ornate as the Cadillac Palace and the lobby and entrance, while enlarged by a glassed in mud lobby are rather smallish.

The lobby chandelier is said to have originally hung in the long-ago demolished Orpheum in Seattle. Damaged by a fire and then demolished the owner boxed the chandelier and kept it in his garage until it was called on to grace the Genesee.

The round chandeliers in this picture (third from the right in the auditorium pictures) are said to have

come from a theater called the “Marboro”, but I think that they meant the Marbro that was demolished long ago on the West Side of Chicago.
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Batwoman on August 21, 2007 at 8:37 pm

The pictures reminded me of the cadillac theater (if I’m remembering correctly, the one Spamalot is/was at).

I really want to go inside there now and see it for myself. I had no clue it was so nice. I guess I’m used to seeing it when it sat dormant back in 99 my last semester at CLC. It was another abandonded building to me since I’d never been inside before.

supercharger96 on August 21, 2007 at 8:31 pm

There are indeed plans to reinstall the organ. After speaking with people involved with the theater, the problem with the organ is related to the massive water damage that the theater sustained.

Broan on August 21, 2007 at 8:29 pm

Wow, that floor is really sloped.

supercharger96 on August 21, 2007 at 8:27 pm

I had the luck to spend some time inside of this beautiful theater recently with some lovely people.

Shots of her:
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Stage. The stage was actually butted out further than the original during remodel.
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Lobby chandelier.
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Auditorium main chandelier.
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The auditorium.
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The auditorium, different angle.
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Original seat ends.
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Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 9, 2007 at 8:48 am

This is a recent close-up view of the Genesee Theater.

moody1785 on March 13, 2007 at 1:23 pm

Genesee Theater is on the list of the Illinois Dept. of Commerce as a Seven Wonders of Illinois â€" your favorite interesting, beautiful or just plain quirky Land of Lincoln destinations.
official destination

This link will allow votes. View link Click to vote. Select Chicagoland.
Scroll down to Genesee Theater.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on December 15, 2006 at 7:09 am

Here is a recent photo of the Genesee Theater.

curiouskate on December 5, 2006 at 10:17 am

The theatre is dark more often than not. What happened to 186 shows in a season? Most of the summer was dark, then fall saw a few here and there – Dec sees a lot and then we’re back to sporadic. What gives? There should be something in that theatre AT LEAST every weekend.

curiouskate on December 5, 2006 at 10:16 am

The replacement Barton pipe organ that was supposed to be installed still lies in pieces unassembled. The theatre has been open for two years and still there are no plans to install the organ. Are they going to let this one fall apart?

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on July 6, 2006 at 6:56 pm

They sure did do a fine job with the place. I remember how shabby it looked sitting there on Genesee Street in the 90’s.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on May 25, 2006 at 8:51 am

Here is a nice color photo of the Genesee Theater.