Varsity Theater

1710 Sherman Avenue,
Evanston, IL 60201

Unfavorite 17 people favorited this theater

The remains of the Varsity Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Varsity Theater opened December 24, 1926 with “The Collegians” and “Man of the Forest”. It was one of the largest suburban Chicago movie palaces ever built, was also one of the most spectacular. It was designed as a French royal chateau of the era of Francois I, and no expense was spared on luxury by its original owner, Clyde Elliot, an Evanston native who had worked in Hollywood for many years. From marble imported from Italy to antique tapestries, the Varsity Theater rivaled many of neighboring Chicago’s finest theaters.

The theater was absorbed into the ever-expanding Balaban & Katz chain’s empire in the early-1930’s, and remained a popular fixture of downtown Evanston until competition from multiplexes caused its demise in the 1980’s. It closed in 1988 and the interior at orchestra level was gutted to be converted into mixed-used retail use. Original decorative features, proscenium and ceiling still remain, but are hidden from view.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 89 comments)

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on September 6, 2017 at 8:10 pm

Exactly. Any hopes of renovation dashed in one dismissive sentence. New construction is all about egos. They can’t be the “visionaries” they think they are if they recycle something. I’m willing to bet they’ve already planned for a shorter tower. So it will look like a concession to the community when they complain about it’s size.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on September 6, 2017 at 9:03 pm

That’s terrible. Not only does the building destroy the Varsity, it looks like another oversized, cheap-looking development that has no respect for context. I also have to wonder how many more apartments the market can absorb before we get into bubble territory.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on October 19, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Here’s an opportunity to tell Evanston’s new mayor to save the Varsity and renovate it for Northlight, instead of tearing it down as part of the proposed tower. Ironically held in a new 1920s style speakeasy, owned by Ron Onesti. Who could tell them of his successes at the vintage Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.

https://www.cityofevanston.org/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/4849/250

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on February 28, 2018 at 5:01 pm

Original link to the 1976 UIC Library photo, which can be enlarged.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/uicdigital/16502571811/in/photostream/

Broan
Broan on March 2, 2018 at 1:58 pm

The redevelopment proposal is dead. https://chicago.suntimes.com/entertainment/northlight-theatres-plans-for-evanston-location-have-been-shelved/

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 9, 2018 at 6:45 pm

Evanston Round Table, Volume XXI Number 5, March 8, 2018:

Northlight and Developers Withdraw Performing Arts Center Proposal

By Matt Simonette

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on April 12, 2018 at 1:52 pm

1945 photo added via Jeff Warmington. Original wider marquee.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on April 26, 2018 at 4:59 pm

Evanston Patch article about the same.

https://patch.com/illinois/evanston/varsity-theater-block-among-states-most-endangered-places

GregoryBear
GregoryBear on June 15, 2018 at 2:53 pm

Greetings! I just joined. I lived in the Varsity during my college years of 1974-78. Two different legendary movies every night, a world film course! I’m wondering if anyone might have any of the oversize one page monthly schedules they printed during that period, or know who to contact? Thanks so much!!

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater