Valencia Theater

1580 Sherman Avenue,
Evanston, IL 60201

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Originally called the Evanston Theater, a vaudeville-turned-movie house built in 1911, this theater was completely rebuilt in 1932 as the Valencia Theater, with increased seating for around 950 and Art Deco style decor.

The Valencia Theater was acquired by the Chicago-based Balaban & Katz chain not long after it reopened. It later was operated under B & K’s successor chains, ABC Theatres, and finally Plitt Theatres.

The Valencia Theater, one of downtown Evanston’s most popular movie houses, closed in 1975.

The Valencia Theater has since been razed, replaced in the early-1980’s by an eighteen-story building that now houses the world headquarters of Rotary International.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 22 comments)

DavidZornig on December 29, 2008 at 5:22 pm

I believe you are correct Life’s Too Short. The fallen economy likely will take “The Tower” with it. Not to mention Evanston’s rather high property taxes. NU still pays next to nothing I believe, even though they have prime lakefront & downtown land. Some of which they surely must rent out to others.
But that’s another story.
There did seem to be quite the downtown condo glut last time I was through there. Our 30th H.S. reunion was actually at Blue Moon Restaurant on Sherman, in the block South towards Lake St.

Thanks for the pictures mp775. They sure brought back memories. Smithfield Foods had a deli I often bought sandwiches from 77 -81. It then closed and became a Bennigan’s in `85 or so. There were some piano studios above Smithfield Foods. Long time (and long ago) Susie Wong’s pianist Bobby Cook had his studio up there as well.

In the second pic, you can just make out the B&G restaurant that was at the corner of Grove & Sherman. Now a trendy Bar Louie, after having a few other short term names over the years. Melbert’s was one in 1982. The Keg was the next restaurant West of that. Still is I think.

I didn’t remember the Valencia Theater being that close to Grove. I thought it was closer to Davis. But the CTA bus kind of blocks out what stood around it.
Definately early 70's though. In both shots the Ford Maverick, Dodge Dart & boat-tail Buick Riviera (71-`73), all seem period correct. But the much older model CTA bus in the 1st shot though, seems almost out of place to even it’s own surroundings.

Seeing that older bus reminded me that when they filmed part of Danny Kaye’s movie “Skokie” in Evanston, they used a bus on Sherman at Lake. Completely awash in it’s own mobile lighting. Several takes were done in front of our Holiday Texaco at 1450 Sherman. Now the site of tavern Tommy Nevin’s since 1990. Fitting.
We had based our name on the Holiday Inn that was relatively new, 1974 or so, across the street. The Holiday Inn was actually home to Evanston’s very first bar.
Most restaurant’s were allowed a “bring your own” policy, but none could serve their own alcohol until 1980 or `81. The 1st liquor store, Evanston’s First, opened in 1985 on Davis St.

DavidZornig on April 14, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Reactivate Notification Status.

StephenT on September 24, 2010 at 6:08 am

As a kid in the 50s I used to go to the Valencia for the 25 cent double feature Saturday matin̩es. With serials! The 15 cent popcorn (unbuttered Рbuttered cost a quarter) was served in cardboard boxes which, when flattened, made excellent projectiles for hurling at the screen which was a favorite past time at matin̩es.
This sport reached its apogee during a double feature that sticks in my memory: “Rock Around the Clock” AND “Don’t Knock the Rock.”
When forced by my parents to take my little sister to the movies I exacted revenge by taking the then four or five year old with me to see “Godzilla” thus instilling a terror which, 50 years later,

DavidZornig on May 24, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Sonny & Cher appeared at the Valencia during a press junket in the `60’s.

GREGlookingback on January 4, 2012 at 8:39 am

When the Valenica closed, there was an article pointing out that it went back to Vaudville Days and Ann Margret had watched “Rebel Without A Cause” there countless times. I saw rereleases of “American Graffitti” there, as well as MASH. Also a terrible Christopher Lee Fu Manchu Movie, and the first Billy Jack movie “Born Losers.” Best of all was “Kansas City Bomber” on a double bill with “Ben.” Compared to the Varsity, it was a real little dump, but it had a great location and from the comments some real memorable events.

Broan on August 1, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Here is a brief view of the Valencia in a drivers training video, as found by David Zornig

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on September 16, 2013 at 1:20 pm

That video is great. It shows exactly where the theater was on the block.

DavidZornig on September 16, 2013 at 7:26 pm

It’s on the Coronet page too LTS. The Coronet is at the 12:32 mark.

dvarapala on June 12, 2014 at 10:07 pm

I grew up about 2 blocks from “Evanston’s Perfect Sound Theater” in the late 60s/early 70s and spent many hours there. I remember seeing “Chariots of the Gods?” and “The Outer Space Connection” there, as well as several of the Charlie Brown movies. We moved away right about the time it was torn down to make way for the American Hospital Supply building (now the HQ for Rotary Intl.)

Evanston artist Walter Burt Adams painted the Valencia several times, including one very sad one of the demolition. Some of these are available on the Evanston Public Library web site:

DavidZornig on December 26, 2014 at 5:10 pm

There is a circa 1922 photo of the New Theatre around page 23 in the below link. Copy & Paste to view.

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