Edens I & II Theaters

320 Skokie Boulevard,
Northbrook, IL 60062

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Edens Theater

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This futuristic-looking classic 1960’s-era movie house was a long-time landmark in suburban Northbrook, visible along the Edens Expressway (for which the theater was named) and Lake-Cook Road, both of which ran past the Edens Theatre. It was designed by the Chicago-based firm of Perkins and Will.

Built in 1963, and opening with “Divorce Italian Style”, the large Edens Theatre was inside a traditional movie theatre, with a huge screen, complete with red curtains and a small stage area. The original color scheme was gold and off-white, with teak paneling.

However, the Edens Theatre exterior was its real stunner, looking like something out of a 1950’s sci-fi movie. It was called the largest “hyperbolic paraboloid” building ever constructed when it opened. The theatre’s concrete roof curved sharply upwards on either end, rising dramatically skyward at each point. Its walls, of corrugated concrete, were broken up by long, undulating swaths of glass, along the entrance areas. The main lobby, which was sunken and reached by sets of stairs, featured then ultra-modern “living room” furniture and artwork.

On November 14, 1969, a slightly smaller (and far more ordinary-looking) second auditorium was built and opened adjacent to the original theater. The theater was renamed the Edens I & II.

The once enormously popular Edens I & II Theaters was shuttered by its last operator, Cineplex Odeon, in 1994, stating that the cost of refurbishing the aging twin was too prohibitive. The last two films on its marquee were “Time Cop” and “Milk Money”.

It was quickly snatched up by a developer, along with a nearby bowling alley and shops, and all were razed by the end of 1994. The Village Square of Northbrook shopping center now sits on the site of the Edens I & II Theaters.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 54 comments)

rivest266
rivest266 on June 23, 2012 at 10:57 am

I uploaded its March 8th, 1963 grand opening ad in the photo section for this cinema.

orsonwellescinema
orsonwellescinema on October 4, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Drove by it nearly every weekday on my way to school in the 80s. Saw LOGAN’S RUN, ANNIE HALL and Bakshi’s LORD OF THE RINGS here. Fascinating theater. I recall feeling it was kind of a foreboding place. Neat though. REALLY neat. Although, each time I was there it was a sea of empty seats. I came to expect that. Edens II, however, that’s where the big shows were … STAR WARS (first run in 70mm), RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, LION IN WINTER, EMPIRE OF THE SUN, SUPERMAN – which was so packed we had to sit in the aisle.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on October 4, 2012 at 9:08 pm

STAR WARS (1977) never played in 70mm when it was showing there in 1977.

billymac72
billymac72 on October 5, 2012 at 8:11 am

True, but it did have “stereophonic sound!” The makers of “Star Wars” were, of course, huge innovators in that field.

Some of my fondest memories were seeing “Star Wars” here (and I also saw it at Mt. Prospect General Cinemas, Golf Mill on re-release, and Palwaukee….probably on re-re-release!) and “Superman: The Movie.” One of the theaters, I think Edens II, had these carpeted partitions in the front of the first row. I remember sitting on the floor in front of those things to watch some movies.

orsonwellescinema
orsonwellescinema on October 7, 2012 at 2:18 pm

re: 70mm, I stand corrected. Sure did seem like it. Edens II was cavernous.

I remember seeing that “coming to your galaxy this summer” poster in the foyer.

rivest266
rivest266 on November 11, 2016 at 10:19 am

The November 14th, 1969 grand opening ad for Edens 2 can be found in the photo section.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on November 11, 2016 at 10:31 am

Thank you rivest266 for all your postings.

orsonwellescinema
orsonwellescinema on March 30, 2017 at 8:27 pm

This is a Must Watch.

Northbrook Community Television’s 1-hour documentary on the theatre “Edens Theater: The Life of a Beautiful Bird.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPVwzY19eEU (Part 1 of 5)

orsonwellescinema
orsonwellescinema on March 30, 2017 at 8:30 pm

I recall taking my young cousins to see Annie at Edens II. Not a great film, but it sure did look and sound great there.

orsonwellescinema
orsonwellescinema on March 30, 2017 at 8:36 pm

From the Chicago Tribune, an article about the closing of the theater.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1994-10-21/news/9410210183_1_single-screen-theater-glory-days-shopping-center

For Edens I And Ii, It’s The Last Reel-but Ending Isn’t A Happy One October 21, 1994 by Anne Stein

It started its run in 1963 with “Divorce-Italian Style” and recently ended with showings of “Time Cop” and “Milk Money.”

In between, thousands of moviegoers watched hundreds of films on the huge, old-fashioned big screens of the Edens I and II Theaters along the Edens Expressway between Lake-Cook and Dundee Roads in Northbrook.

“I think I saw every one of the `Star Wars' movies there,” said Village Clerk Lona Louis. “It was nice to have a movie theater so close. In the glory days, it was a nice, big theater to go to.”

The glory days, however, are over. The theaters have been closed and sold to a developer, and they’re being demolished and will be replaced by a shopping mall.

Even those who never ventured into Edens I-a George Jetson-like structure opened 31 years ago-couldn’t miss it as they drove along the Edens Expressway or Skokie Boulevard.

Its swooping, concrete roof, low and flat in the middle and rising up to a point on either end like an old leather saddle, was the world’s largest “hyperbolic paraboloid” structure when it was built as a single-screen theater in 1963. In 1969, the more architecturally subdued Edens II was constructed nearby.

Architect Jack Train was the principal in charge of the project when Edens I was designed by Robert Palmer of the Chicago firm Perkins & Will.

“The people who came to us were old movie families and wanted to build a theater in Northbrook,” Train recalled. “They were also considering a theater where they could have speakers and do readings, and they wanted something unique.

“It seemed like a logical solution was a hyperbolic paraboloid.”

Though the building looked odd, it was economical to build, Train said. The concrete roof was poured in a day. Moreover, it had almost perfect acoustics and distributed air and light well.

But according to Howard Lichtman, a spokesman for the theaters' last operator, Cineplex Odeon, the Edens “was an old facility that didn’t warrant the capital investments to bring it up to snuff.”

“The Edens is an older complex without the modern amenities,” Lichtman said. “It wasn’t your modern multiplex with a state-of-the-art sound and projection system.”

As soon as demolition is completed this month, construction will begin on Market Square, a shopping center that could eventually stretch a half-mile from the theater site north to Lake-Cook Road.

The two theaters will be replaced by five stores, including Performance Bicycles and Kinko’s Copies and a Bertucci’s restaurant. Phase II of the shopping center project, if approved by Northbrook, may include a Builder’s Square, Circuit City and Filene’s Basement.

Though Northbrook is again without its own cinemas, that may change too, said Village Manager John Novinson.

“Somewhere down the road, this community will get theaters,” Novinson said. “There’s already talk of a new location in town.

“Unfortunately, you can’t carry those large auditoriums anymore.”

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