Varsity Theater

1710 Sherman Avenue,
Evanston, IL 60201

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Showing 1 - 25 of 80 comments

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.

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 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.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on September 6, 2017 at 7:25 pm

It’s not in too poor shape to reuse. I was in the theater a few years ago. They wouldn’t get the extra 35 stories of apartments if they restored the Varsity.

DavidZornig on September 6, 2017 at 6:57 am

Well this is disturbing. Drop the 37 stories idea, renovate the Varsity which is encapsulated behind the GAP, and they’d be heroes to the community. Don’t believe them when they say it is in “too poor shape to reuse”. From this rendering, it looks like they would annex the alley and tear down almost the whole block going North.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on December 24, 2015 at 10:53 am

I photographed the remains of the Varsity Theatre late last year. Check out some of my pictures and a short write up of the theater at: After the Final Curtain

DavidZornig on November 6, 2015 at 2:46 pm

The Varsity is seen at 12:40 in the below History of Evanston link on YouTube. (The Valencia at 10:37 & 11:09) Film by Ron & Sydney Crawford. Narrated by Byrne Piven of Evanston’s Piven Theatre.

james44 on November 5, 2015 at 6:19 am

A long time ago, after the final showings on Friday and Saturday nights, many moviegoers would then head for either Cooley’s Cupboard or the Coffee Room.

DavidZornig on October 20, 2015 at 10:31 pm

Oil on canvas Varsity painting added, copyright Don Elmi via the below website. Many other theatres featured in it as well. Copy & paste to view.

DavidZornig on August 20, 2015 at 4:09 pm

1970 lobby photo added, photo credit and courtesy of Mary Gilbert Albrecht, pictured in her uniform

Patsy on November 15, 2014 at 11:04 am

After reading about this historical theatre it is a shame that the interior was gutted….Evanston’s loss!

Patsy on November 15, 2014 at 11:02 am

Just saw on FB an interior photo of this theatre under After the Final Curtain. Will this theatre be restored as it has an awesome exterior.

DavidZornig on July 28, 2014 at 3:47 pm

You would have to copy and paste it into your browser, starting from the end of the link so my sentence above it doesn’t highlight. Or just scroll back to 08/06/07 in the comments, and click on the link HowardBHass posted originally that says Behind The Gap.

davidplomin on July 28, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Link won’t open on this site.

DavidZornig on July 18, 2014 at 6:49 pm

This link was posted back in 2007. It has photo’s of the dormant balcony area.

davidplomin on July 18, 2014 at 6:13 pm

I drove by yesterday with a friend from Chicago. I wonder how much was left upstairs in the balcony? From the alley, you can see that all the fire escapes have been removed, and many of the exits are bricked up. You can still see a few metal doors just begging to be opened by us urban explorers. No way for the employees of that Gap store to explore. From what I recall, the stairs leading up to the balcony were just inside the front doors in the lobby. And those are gone as well. All retail space, except maybe far back, the stage area is still there. No need to dismantle it. Too expensive. Just wall it up. It was a grand place to see movies!

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on January 10, 2014 at 8:59 am

Discussion continues. This has been tossed around for enough years now that I think they’ll eventually make something happen. As long as I’ve been alive Evanston has had a large arts contingent.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on February 16, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Here is a report prepared for the city by some consulting firm in July, 2011. In it they discuss reactivating the balcony space for theater use while keeping stores in the ground floor:

james44 on July 17, 2012 at 11:52 pm

The YouTube is now my second Varsity Theater. Because of the YouTube, there are now perhaps millions of younger people who are eagerly rediscovering the Golden Age. Thus, it would seem that the Varsity Theater could be reopened, showing only Golden Age motion pictures. Sample list:

Casablanca, Funny Face, You Were Never Lovelier, The Red Shoes.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on September 23, 2010 at 11:15 am

It seems like there’s been consistent interest in restoring the Varsity over the last few years. Every time I think the subject has died down I hear from someone that it is being dicussed again by people who seem to matter. I’d love to see the project come to pass. But what would they do with it?

0123456789 on July 5, 2010 at 10:01 am

Such a sad story.

DSalzman on May 13, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Wow, seeing those pics of The Varsity brought a tear to my eye. I worked at The Varsity, The Valencia, and The Coronet theatres from 1974 to 1978. I would love to see the glorious Varsity open it’s doors once again! Big thanks to my friend Dave Zornig for calling this site to my attention.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 15, 2010 at 7:48 am

Northlight spent a good deal of money to remodel the Coronet. It was a very nice facility. They even put blue neon “Northlight” panels on either side of the marquee. I’m not sure why they eventually left. My best guess is parking.

james44 on March 14, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Tribute from The Golden Age:

The Varsity Theater wasn’t made for Hollywood. Hollywood was made for the Varsity Theater.

Bway on March 14, 2010 at 4:28 am

That is pretty neat about that guy that took all those images, I never knew it was one guy.

Anyway, as for the Varsity, this is very similar to what happened with the RKO Madison Theater in Ridgewood, NY, in which the theater survives above a fake ceiling and the orchestra level used for retail. The Gaumont Theater in Manchester England also had a smilar fate, with a nightclub opening on the main level, and a fake ceiling put in. That one however was completely demolished in the end.