LaGrange Theatre

80 S. La Grange Road,
La Grange, IL 60525

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Broan on April 21, 2016 at 6:58 pm

The La Grange was NOT designed by Rapp & Rapp. It was designed by E.P. Rupert for R. Levine & Co. Article in photos section.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 18, 2014 at 7:04 pm

The remodeling of the LaGrange Theatre by Roy B. Blass in 1948 occasioned a three page article by decorator Hanns R. Teichert in the January 8, 1949, issue of Boxoffice. There are several photos.

JPK on April 13, 2013 at 5:20 pm

That concession stand was cursed. On a Sunday afternoon in ‘76 the Chicago area was hit with a heavy downpour. A roof drain above the stand plugged up with leaves and stuff. It literally rained inside until I was able to get to the offending roof drain to open it. I got soaked to save that stand.The things we did in the name of our theatres.

Another time a pipe in the dressing rooms under the stage split during an extreme cold snap. It was a Saturday. Ed Konradt was the DM. Rather than pay a plumber the Saturday rates, he went home picked up his wrenches and between the two of us we repaired the offending pipe before losing the first show. We were a little late going on screen but got all shows in that day even with having to turn off the water for awhile.Fortunately it was an easy repair.

Oh, La Grange was such an old place. I’m glad it is still around.Does anyone remember cleaning plenum chambers in the old theatres?

DAL on April 7, 2013 at 10:46 am

This theatre was the source of some of my stranger experiences back in the 70’s when I was working as a relief manager, including this one: On a beautiful weekend afternoon, the lobby doors were open to take advantage of the outside air. As the concessionaire was filling the buttermat with Kraft topping, a bird flew through the open doors and into the buttermat and drowned.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on December 14, 2011 at 10:46 am

Still a great place to see a show. Good selection of 2nd run films, great people working here, and the recent renovations have made it a comfortable place to see a show.

spectrum on October 12, 2010 at 5:52 pm

According to their website, the $2,000,000 has been completed – new decor, sound system, seating, restored ceiling mural, new concession stand.

CmdrTwit on August 19, 2010 at 8:35 pm

I worked at the theater from 1976-1978 when it was still a Plitt property. Started as an usher and moved on to janitor/maintenance. Best high school job. We had the run of the place (especially the balcony and the backstage). We were paid sub-minimum wage of $1.85/hr, but always signed in for extra hours. Ushering was OK except the jackets we had to wear hadn’t been cleaned in any of our life times, and “You Light Up My Life” played for EIGHT weeks! DOH! Maintenance meant I was in charge of the baling wire and duct tape that held the place together. And the staple gun! This because the biggest part of the job was re-covering the seats as they wore out/were destroyed. The scariest part of the job was starting the heaters. The heating system consisted of 3 oil fueled flame throwers that blasted open flames at brick walls under the stage. The warm air was then circulated past the glowing bricks through tunnels under the seats. There was no thermostat so we had to manually ignite those ancient dragons. I was sure that one was going to blow up! Good times …

300bowler on August 6, 2010 at 4:14 pm

If anyone has list of movies shown at the LaGrange from 1960-1990 could they please post that list here? Thanks.

LouisRugani on December 8, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Weak state laws let public officials stonewall citizens looking for information
By David Kidwell

Tribune staff reporter

May 3, 2008

Thom Rae wants to know why his town is spending $1 million to keep a second-run theater afloat.

Kevin and Anne Barber want to know what happened to the principal who forced their 8th grader and his classmates to kneel painfully on a gym floor during a lecture on respect.

Patricia and Joel Garza want to know why so many secrets surround the investigation into the crash that killed their grown son.

They all want answers. The answer they all got was “no.”

In Illinois, getting a public record is a frustrating labyrinth of excuses, delays and denials.

Public servants have all the tools they need to keep a grip on information that rightly belongs to the people, whether it’s a police report, a principal’s disciplinary file or a spending plan, a Tribune examination has found.

Since 2005, more than a thousand citizens have filed complaints about public officials in Illinois who refused requests for public records, most often by completely ignoring them.

A review of those complaints, along with dozens of interviews, reveals a culture of secrecy shrouding the machinery of your government. Public meetings are often theater, where votes are pro-forma endorsements of decisions forged in e-mails and memos you will never be allowed to see.

Government records routinely turned over at the front counters in many other states are routinely denied here — the result of a notoriously weak open records law, an unsympathetic political culture and an attitude of disdain among many public servants who consider documents their own.

“In my view, it is the worst state in the country when it comes to transparency and open records,” said Terry Mutchler, the first-ever head of the Public Access Bureau spearheaded by Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan.

“If you’ve been through the files then you know what we’re up against,” said Mutchler, who left last year to start a similar effort in Pennsylvania. “It was horrible, ineffective and unbelievably frustrating.”

Don’t like it? Hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit. In Illinois, that may be your only recourse. Even Madigan, the state’s top law enforcement officer, has little authority to pry loose public records beyond writing a strongly worded letter.

Her office wrote more than 100 of them last year alone, according to the Tribune’s review of her complaint files. Fewer than two dozen of those letters resulted in the release of the requested records, her files show.

The state’s Freedom of Information Act has more pages devoted to what records you can’t get than what you can, from public officials' personnel files to memos where they express opinions. Critics of the law, including the Chicago Tribune, have called for a complete overhaul to eliminate broad exemptions commonly used by government to deny records.

Proposals to strengthen the law gained some steam at the Statehouse this year following the corruption arrest of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. But they focus less on eliminating loopholes and more on strengthening enforcement of the current law.

One of the most common exemptions is for “preliminary drafts,” cited by officials to withhold any number of documents written before government makes a decision — which is exactly when the records are most needed by those who might question it.

That was the case for the self-appointed La Grange watchdog who asked for all the internal reports, studies and staff memos village leaders used to justify spending nearly $1 million to help renovate the dilapidated La Grange Theatre.

‘It doesn’t look good for them’

Thom Rae has battled what he calls an attitude of secrecy in La Grange for years.

The 54-year-old, who runs a news blog called, sicced the attorney general’s office on the village manager and trustees last year for meeting in secret on a controversial plan to spend $1 million in tax money to help renovate the La Grange Theatre.

Then he asked for the records — consultants reports, fire code memos and other documents — that Village Manager Robert Pilipiszyn and the board members were using to justify spending tax money in the public/private partnership.

All he got was Pilipiszyn’s three-page summary to the board — with 15 of 19 paragraphs blacked out. La Grange officials cited the “preliminary draft” exemption as all the permission they needed to wield their marker.

Rae laughed as he pointed to a heading called “Community Involvement” and all the words beneath it were inked out. “The entire entry is a secret,” Rae said. “Tell me there’s no irony in that one.”

Madigan also laughed when the Tribune recently showed her a copy of the redacted document. “It doesn’t look good for them,” she said. Madigan’s deputies likewise expressed their own skepticism last year about whether the village was forthcoming, but told Rae there was nothing more they could do.

Last month, though, the Tribune made its own request for the records and got them.

Pilipiszyn released the complete memo and several other records following the newspaper’s inquiries, but by then the point was long since moot. The board voted 4-3 in November to spend the money.

The deciding vote was cast by Village President Liz Asperger, who won her seat with help from the theater’s owners. They gave her free slide ads at movies and provided $25 in popcorn for a rally.

Asperger said she supported the theater deal to preserve a village landmark and praised the village’s record of transparency.

“Appropriately, there are some things that should not be disclosed,” she said. “But we work hard to keep those to a minimum.”

Pilipiszyn said the village attorney approved withholding the records because the village was in early stages of considering the deal. He still won’t release the report on the theater’s financial health, citing potential harm to the owners “if their competitors got a hold of it.”

“What competitors?” Rae responded. “It is a second-run theater in La Grange, they don’t have any competitors. If they feel there is something to lose from showing the public their finances, then perhaps they shouldn’t be asking the public for money.”

Pilipiszyn said there were several public meetings where the theater deal was discussed in detail.

“I think we do a great job providing the citizens with all the information they need to make an informed judgment,” he said. “I don’t want to be the poster child for this issue.”

Withholding drafts and other documents used in decision-making may be common practice in Illinois, but it’s puzzling to officials from other states.

“Wow, that pretty much encompasses everything government does,” said Laurie Beyer-Kropuenske, Minnesota’s top public records official. “I don’t get it. How is the public supposed to evaluate the performance of its government if all those records are secret?”

The public needs to see drafts more than almost any other document, said Pat Gleason, a cabinet aide and open-records counsel to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.

“They need to know what a government body did in order to reach a decision, what kind of other ideas did they explore and reject,” Gleason said. “All those records are public in Florida, and it hasn’t yet brought government to a standstill.”

‘Privacy’ excuse just a fig leaf?Another broad exception commonly cited is for anything considered a “clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” That’s the exemption school officials used when irate parents at Clinton Junior High School demanded answers after their 8th-graders were forced to kneel during a lecture about discipline.

The uproar prompted a written apology the next day from Principal John Pine and his deputy Karen Smith. They said the kneeling was used to get students' attention, lasted only a short time and was aimed at curbing an array of disciplinary problems that included swearing, running in halls and showing disrespect to staff.

To parents Kevin and Anne Barber, the apology raised more questions than it answered.

“Obviously, they don’t have control of the school,” said Kevin Barber, who insists his son did nothing to deserve that treatment. “I want to know what happened.”

The Barbers asked for video taken by a security camera in the gym, but were denied on grounds that it would invade the privacy of the children captured on tape. They complained to the attorney general’s office, which offered advice on how to request the video but said it could not advise the couple on whether the school in central Illinois had a legitimate reason to withhold it.

The Tribune helped the Barbers file a new request in April, seeking the video and records of any discipline meted out to the administrators. Supt. Jeffrey Holmes denied the discipline records, telling the Tribune the parents would have to trust him that Pine’s punishment for the inappropriate assembly was sufficient.

“It’s a personnel matter, and it wouldn’t be appropriate to release it,” he said.

But the Tribune inquiries did prompt Holmes to reconsider the decision to withhold the video.

“You cannot identify any of the students' faces, so we decided that it is not a student record,” Holmes said, acknowledging it shows the teenagers were forced to kneel twice for a total of eight minutes.

The Barbers said until this happened they had no idea how little access they had to their own school’s records.

“They have custody of our kids for most of the day, and they are telling us to just trust them to handle everything,” Anne Barber said. “Well, I am having a hard time trusting them. It is just a shame that it took the Chicago Tribune to get us that videotape.”

The Barbers said the incident has left them with a newfound appreciation for the need for open government.

“Just look at the politicians in this state and the corruption everywhere,” Kevin Barber said. “And then you look at the difficulty we had getting this little piece of information. It’s no wonder these people are so corrupt. It’s no wonder they get away with so much.”

The privacy exemption is broadly used in Illinois to protect everything from performance evaluations and disciplinary cases to résumés and employment contracts of public servants. It can also be used to deny 911 tapes and redact police reports.

But when public officials don’t make such records available, the secrecy sometimes breeds suspicion.

‘All I wanted was the truth'In south suburban Steger, Patricia and Joel Garza fought for months seeking copies of police reports and dispatch tapes after their son died in a car crash. When they finally got some records, with help from Madigan’s office, the names of all the witnesses — even the identity of the other driver — were blacked out for privacy reasons.

“I want to know what they are hiding,” Patricia Garza said of the police. “All I wanted was the truth.”

According to police, her 24-year-old son, Matthew, died when he blew a red light at 90 miles per hour, legally drunk, and his car was struck by another vehicle. He died instantly, minutes after taking the family van without permission early on the morning of Sept. 29, 2007.

But South Chicago Heights police took more than five hours to notify the Garzas their son was dead. Stunned and confused, the Steger couple demanded a deeper look into the case. Their numerous requests for police reports, photographs and dispatch tapes were at first ignored and then denied, records show.

The attorney general’s office tried to help, informing the Steger and South Chicago Heights Police Departments the 911 tapes and accident reports are public records. Garza got some 911 tapes and police reports with large sections blacked out.

“I was stonewalled at every turn,” Garza said.

The couple, who had called police to report their son took the car, suspect the police started a pursuit that led to his death. They have no evidence and police have denied it, but the 52-year-old mother scours every new document looking for the slightest discrepancy, sure police are hiding the facts.

The chiefs of both Police Departments involved in the investigation say they sympathize, and acknowledge mistakes were made in complying with the requests.

“I know she thinks we are covering up something,” said South Chicago Heights Police Chief Bill Joyce. “Of course we could have handled things better. I understand that.”

Joyce said the accident reconstruction took months to complete and the dispatch tapes were withheld because other jurisdictions had to be contacted for permission to release them.

The decision to black out information identifying witnesses and the other driver was made by Parker Johnson, the attorney for South Chicago Heights.

Johnson said he decided to black out anything that contained private information even though Illinois law specifies that identities of witnesses to traffic accidents should be released.

The Tribune obtained a copy of the complete report, and a review shows the deletions went beyond witness identities. Also blacked out was the make, model and year of the other car, as well as its contents which included a cooler, a radar detector and sunglasses.

“In hindsight, that was probably not necessary,” Johnson said about deleting those details.

“It is possible some words get blacked out that shouldn’t, but there is a very real concern about the disclosure of private and personal information.”

The frustrations of people like Patricia Garza have not been enough to change the law in Illinois.

Most states that have passed good transparency laws did so because lawmakers and politicians were forced to by a citizenry fed up with political scandal, said Charles Davis, director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition at the University of Missouri.

“I can’t imagine you guys in Illinois are not at that point,” he said. “History proves that government officials cannot be trusted to police themselves, whether it is a police department, a city hall, or a governor … and in the case of Illinois, two governors in a row.”

Copyright © 2009, Chicago Tribune

DavidZornig on December 8, 2009 at 1:41 pm

FYI. I’ve been perusing a June 3rd, 1965 Chicago Daily News.
It shows the LaGrange Theater located at 84 South LaGrange Road. Not 80 South as currently used.

I also just added a drive-in called the 66 Drive-In, located at Route 66 & LaGrange Rd. An intersection touched on in Gary Rickert’s May 31st 2007 post as Ogden(66) & LaGrange Rd.
And not mentioned by name or as a drive-in.

It’s possible the ownership was then the same, as they were both playing the same film “Circus World” starring John Wayne.

If that 66 Drive-In went by another name I hope the CT admins catch it. Cause I couldn’t find another one.

rpb on October 31, 2009 at 10:54 pm

If any theatre can be the epitome of “coming back from the dead”, the LaGrange is that theatre. I wouldn’t have sold you chances for a tired dime a few years ago that it would still be standing today, but I’m glad I was wrong. They have done, and continue to do, a wonderful job of making this theatre a fine place to see a movie.

300bowler on September 2, 2009 at 9:08 am

If anyone has the show listing for the LaGrange from say 1960 to 1990 could you please post them here? Thanks

GaryRickert on August 12, 2009 at 10:14 am

Saw a movie at the LaGrange Theatre, for the first time in 35 years, (because what they had done to it was just too depressing) and while there is still work to do, including the main entrance, all I can say is WOW! They obviously got some good advice somewhere along the way. While it is not “traditional” with all sorts of gingerbread etc. it has a very “class” feel. And what a surprise over the new restroom/lounge area which is pretty much where the orchestra pit was. The original proscenium arch and soundboard with murals is there in all its glory- beautifully painted and lit. It was just like seeing an old friend you thought was dead. The only way it could have been better (other than restoring the single screen) would be if they had made the “tunnel” between the rear auditoria and the “grand” lounge area go all the way to the dome, so you could see the soundboard/prosceni um arch from the lobby end of this tunnel. The tunnel itself is very tall and has several chandeliers and has a nice feel. All in all, all areas are very bright except the auditoria which are all black, (except the original balcony fronts) but very comfortable. The old, very ornate balcony fronts have been preserved. It would have been nice if they had painted “people in the balcony” which you could see as you headed from the lounges to the main lobby. Even though it is not done, I was very impressed that they had taken an extra step to uncover and display some of the treasures remaining in this once decrepit theatre. A year ago I wouldn’t have given it any sort of chance at all. Business seemed pretty good, too. No commercials before the show, either. This area has always been “moneyed” but now is more “yuppie moneyed”. The staff seems very friendly and the future looks bright indeed.

Just an aside, I don’t think there was ever a theatre with a worse washroom arrangement (original). The ladies room was down a couple of stairs at the far end of the lobby and under the balcony stairs, opposite a fire exit; though I was never in there, it couldn’t have been more than a “2 holer”. The men’s room was under the main lobby down a stairway that couldn’t have been much wider than 2' with a turn ½ way down. To make things worse, the wall had a protrusion at the landing where the stairs turned back on themselves such that a broad-shouldered person had to turn sideways to pass, let alone meeting someone going the opposite way.

Gary Rickert

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on August 9, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Catherine, I was at that theatre recently. I saw the murals and the renovations and I also think they did a great job.

300bowler on August 9, 2009 at 2:27 pm

If anyone has the shoe listings for this theatre from the 1960’s until 1990 could you post them here please? Thank you.

CatherineDiMartino on July 19, 2009 at 6:06 am

I went here with a friend yesterday to see “Up”. Granted the auditoriums are a little tacky, but they did a GREAT JOB on the rest of the place. They put in a new box office, a new concession stand, new carpeting, etc. The hallway connecting theatre #2 with the lobby has nice chandeliers in it. The restrooms are now towards the back by theatre #2 and are spacious and clean. And they uncovered the ceiling murals in this area. They are absolutely spectacular, these murals.

Oh yes, they shortened theatre #1 in order to accomodate the rest rooms.

Bischof on May 25, 2009 at 9:29 pm

Funny, the ‘1983’ photo above features my aunt in the box office, and my grandfather in the suitcoat at the front door.

Bischof on May 25, 2009 at 9:05 pm

Of course, we could not have expected this to happen without a little corruption…

View link

kencmcintyre on March 1, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Renovation is discussed in this 2/11/09 article:

spectrum on November 12, 2008 at 11:39 am

According to this article (,
the La Grange is now owned by David Rizner and John Rot, who have just received $1,000,000 from the city (through the tax increment financing system) for infrastructure repairs, including plumbing and electrical, and will use $650,000 of their own money for interior and business upgrades. In addition, the La Grange Business Association has pledged $50,000 to build a replica of the original marquee.

The above links to a Chicago Tribune article which also says the theatre was constructed in 1925 and the architects were Rapp & Rapp.

BigTomEH on October 27, 2008 at 4:51 am

Let’s all play Lotto…

Anyone ever see the LaGrange/LaGrange Park edition of the ‘Images of America’ series? They’re wonderful books—I’m sure that edition is available at the Borders down the street. Flip to the page that features the original LaGrange Theatre lobby as a movie palace; it’s so ornate!

Don’t bank on Classic Cinemas buying it…they just reopened the North Riverside Mall theater, and they were forced to drop out of a planned 11-screener as part of Tinley Park’s urban renewal. Needless to say, the economy has not been kind to the entertainment industry. ‘The Dark Knight’ really saved Hollywood this year.

Bischof on October 21, 2008 at 8:45 pm

Yeah, it’s pretty sad…

The place is far from an abortion, but certainly when you consider what has been done to it, facade irreversibly painted over, perfectly good irreplacable trimwork torn out… essentially an incomplete shell of a building that hasn’t seen added work in almost a year now, it really is depressing.

I think about the flack I used to give my grandfather, “Why don’t you replace this”, “why don’t you change that”– the problem was, LaGrange ALWAYS gave my family flack about repairing the building, so anything done to it was patchwork. If you wanted to tear a wall out and expand an area, they wanted you to replace irrelavent electric in the other side of the building. Absurd, and now that Hortons has proven incapable of forming a sound business plan for the organization, the village wants nothing to do with it, and having jumped the gun, Hortons is finding themselves “stuck” with a partially destroyed building. Stupidity.

It’s pathetic really, I have such passion for that building; I want so very much to see the building improved, restored, and preserved… $3M of work, and you’d have one HELL of a theatre! Yeah, in this economy, I’m sure banks will be lining up around the corner!

CinemarkFan on October 21, 2008 at 8:35 pm

If I can get the capital, I’d like to buy it. I’m in the process of trying to get my theater corp off the ground by next summer.

Don’t worry, I’m writing a business plan. No Village-like operation will come from me.

CatherineDiMartino on October 21, 2008 at 7:50 pm

I went here with my husband to see “Tropic Thunder”, which was playing in theatre #3. The others on this site are correct. The renovations are very tacky. The above person who said “the former wooden beltline below the wall curtains having been raised to approximately 6' with what appears to be a florecent backlighting over the murals.” is absolutely correct.

Having the curtains at a hieght of over 6' is detrimental in many ways:

1) Your eye now gravitates upwards.
2) The glare from the screen bounces off these murals. Having the belt rail closer to the floor used to give the place a more pleasing subdued tone.
3) The sound now bounces off the walls. Again, having the curtains lower was acoustically beneficial because they absorbed the sound better.

They would have been better off cleaning and repairing the place. The curtains should have remained as they were, either cleaned or replaced, but at the same level.

This is really a shame because I like this theatre. The staff is very friendly, the prices are good and the LaGrange books good 2nd run films. I’ve even seen “Letters From Iwo JIma” and “The Counterfeiters” here. I’ll probably still patronize the place, but I wish someone like Classic Cinemas would take it over.