Lincoln Theatre

103 E. Main Street,
Belleville, IL 62220

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Lincoln Theatre

Opened on October 6, 1921, the Lincoln Theatre sits on the site of the 19th century Mansion House Hotel/Voss Building.

Originally seating 1,800, the large and ornate Lincoln cost about $50,000 to construct.

It opened with a movie “The Old Nest”, four vaudeville acts, and a live orchestra.

During the 1920’s, such stars as a young Ginger Rogers and the Marx Brothers performed live on stage. By this time, the Lincoln was billed as the greatest vaudeville house in southern Illinois.

A $30,000 Wurlitzer organ was purchased for the theater in 1927. The Lincoln switched from silent to sound films in early 1929.

In 1931, the Lincoln became part of the Fox chain, and six years later, a large chandelier was installed in the auditorium.

When Cinemascope came to the Lincoln in 1953 with “The Robe”, the lower half of the chandelier was removed because it cast a shadow across the newly installed screen. Around this time, the Wurlitzer was removed, as well, having long been disused.

National General ran the Lincoln in the 1950’s, and a decade later, Mann Theatres began operating the movie house. In 1980, it was acquired by Richard Wright, who has been painstakingly restoring and renovating the great old theater ever since.

The balcony was converted into twin auditoriums, and seating on the main floor was vastly reduced to 584, for modern-day audiences accustomed to more legroom.

In 1988, Wright added a new vertical marquee, replacing one that was damaged by a storm a few years earlier.

A new pipe organ was installed in 1996, the same year the Lincoln celebrated its 75th anniversary, with an gala concert.

After many years of screening second-run fare, the Lincoln recently returned to a first-run policy.

In addition to movies, the theater also hosts live performances, including children’s theater, concerts and is the home of the Belleville Philharmonic.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on December 4, 2004 at 12:14 pm

The architect of the Lincoln Theatre was William Henry Gruen.

JAlex on December 19, 2004 at 2:46 pm

Even though it opened as the Lincoln, the original plan was to name it the ARCADE.

DavidZornig on January 14, 2020 at 12:20 pm

1969 photo added via Arnold Fusco. Original marquee with vertical sign, and hanging letters instead of clear plastic as now.

TJinSF on November 19, 2020 at 9:27 am

An interesting temporary use for the theatre during COVID.

Norman Plant
Norman Plant on November 19, 2020 at 12:50 pm

The Lincoln is within walking distance of the courthouse and Courthouse Square (which is actually a roundabout circle).

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