Des Plaines Theater

1476 Miner Street,
Des Plaines, IL 60016

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Des Plaines Theater

The Des Plaines Theater was opened as a vaudeville/movies house on August 9, 1925 with Adolphe Menjou in “Are Parents People” plus five acts of vaudeville on the stage. Built for the Polka Brothers circuit, the theater was designed by architect William B. Betts of neighboring Park Ridge, who also designed the Glen Theatre (now the Glen Art Theatre) in west suburban Glen Ellyn among other theaters. The Spanish Moorish style foyer led into a Spanish Renaissance style auditorium, which originally seated 1,018 patrons and had a large stage and orchestra pit. The theatre was equipped with a 3 manual Geneva theatre organ which was installed in December 1925, and removed from the theatre in August 1934. The theater’s exterior was in an Art Deco style, complete with bright, multi-colored terra cotta on the facade.

In 1935, members of the Balaban family (of the Balaban & Katz chain fame) purchased the Des Plaines Theater, and it became primarily a first-run movie house. That same year, the theater was remodeled by the firm of Pereira & Pereira, adding some Art Deco style touches, especially to the marquee. In 1982, a fire nearly destroyed the theater, but it was reopened a couple years later as a twin, with each auditorium seating about 275 patrons and screening second-run films.

The Des Plaines received a much-needed renovation in 1998, and showed primarily first-run East Indian films until closing in early-2003.

The Des Plaines Theater was again showing East Indian movies in 2006 and 2007, but was not been used since January 2008 when the theater was used to for a special showing of “High School Musical 2” hosted by Radio Disney. It then re-opened as a performing arts venue, which also shows movies.

In October 2010, work began converting the theater back to a single auditorium. Renovations were completed and the theater re-opened on November 11, 2011. Seating is now provided for 700, with hopes of adding a further 250 seats in the near future. Programming live theatre, Bollywood movies, independent movies, and hopes of including Hollywood movies and film festivals.

The Des Plaines Theatre was closed in January 2014.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 97 comments)

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on November 15, 2011 at 4:10 pm

A note to Cinema Treasures Admins. It has not been possible to access links that are embedded within posts, since the website makeover. Is there something that can be done to correct that?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 16, 2012 at 8:32 am

The principals of Pereira & Pereira, the firm that did the 1935 remodeling of the Des Plaines Theatre, were William Pereira and Hal Pereira. Percival Pereira was an older architect who was never a member of this firm.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 14, 2015 at 3:45 pm

This article from the suburban Daily Herald, dated August 25, 2014, says that the Des Plaines Theatre was closed due to violations of the building code. The owner of the theater would like to reopen but is seeking funds from the city to make repairs. Two other potential operators are also interested in reopening the house, including the operator of the Arvada Theatre in St. Charles, but at the time of the article no deals had been made. I haven’t found any more recent articles.

(My apologies for the broken HTML in the version of this comment I posted yesterday, which turned the comment box into a link. I usually check after I’ve posted a comment, but that one I missed.)

tntim
tntim on September 20, 2015 at 8:25 pm

This link is to the May 12, 1928 issue of the “Exhibitors Herald and Picture World” that has pictures and an article about the Des Plaines Theater. View Link

JonasClark
JonasClark on February 9, 2017 at 4:53 pm

Does anyone have the list of pipe ranks which were in the Geneva organ originally installed at the Des Plaines?

Broan
Broan on February 9, 2017 at 5:07 pm

Not that I’ve ever seen. Very little is known about the organ.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on May 30, 2017 at 2:52 pm

Flickr link with a 1951 photo.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/yark64/6372960021/

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on May 30, 2017 at 2:57 pm

1966 image added courtesy of Jennifer Christiansen‎.

LouRugani
LouRugani on December 24, 2017 at 12:35 pm

The Des Plaines City Council moved on Monday, December 18, 2017 to take over the DES PLAINES Theatre through eminent domain by voting 7-1 to begin condemnation proceedings on the 1925 Art Deco-style theatre. Dhitu Bhagwakar bought the theatre in 2003 and showed a mix of Bollywood and other movies before getting shut down due to code violations in 2014.

Only Alderman Dick Sayyad voted against the measure intended to revitalize the city’s downtown but taxpayers could be on the hook in the long term. The theatre acquisition project was a longtime goal of Mayor Matt Bogusz, who had pursued a public-private partnership with Rivers Casino to buy and maintain the theatre. Last August the council approved a non-binding agreement with the casino under which Rivers would kick in up to $2 million to buy and renovate the property plus annual payments of $50,000 to keep it running.

Alderman Malcolm Chester, 6th Ward, opposed Bogusz’s plan when he was running for mayor, but he said a majority of residents he spoke to during the campaign supported the idea. He also cited the partnership with the casino as the key factor in changing his decision. “They’re basically sharing our risk in this process, which makes it much more viable from my point of view,” Chester said. “This is a risk and I understand that, but Rivers participation reduces that risk enough for me to support it.”

Alderman Carla Brookman, 5th Ward, agreed that the partnership with the casino was a major factor. “We will have control of the property, and that’s most important,” she said. “It gives us the latitude to do a lot of things.”

Resident Ronald Moore said he believed the council had hidden the purchase on the consent agenda, mentioning it only by its street address in the notice of the meeting. He warned against what he suggested would be a costly venture over the long term and recommended a referendum. “Let the citizens decide whether the city should spend $2 million and who knows, after five years, how much more the city will spend in tax money to keep this thing running,” he said.

Ron Onesti, owner of the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles had shown interest in operating the theatre if Des Plaines manages to acquire it. 

The move to begin eminent domain proceedings follow several months of negotiations between the city and owner of the theatre. Bogusz told the Des Plaines Journal the city’s appraised value of the property is between $400,000 and $500,000 but owner Bhagwakar, who purchased the building in 2003 for $920,000 from a bank that wanted to tear down the structure and build a drive-through, has said his appraised value is $2.3 million. He had said he was open to selling the property but described the city’s offer of $450,000 as “low ball,” saying there was “no way” he could accept such an offer, the Daily Herald reported.

Bogusz – who has previously described Bhagwaker as a “bad actor” – told the Journal the city’s appraisal takes into account the cost of bringing the theater back into code and is a more accurate market value. He said a lawsuit to take over the property would be filed as soon as possible, calling it “a long time coming.” According to Cook County Assessor records, Bhagwakar repeatedly appealed down the assessed value of the property from $381,251 in 2008 to about $80,000 in 2011 and every subsequent year. It was closed in January 2014 when he failed to meet the city’s deadline to fix various building code issues, including a sprinkler system near the stage, bathrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and a fire-resistant curtain, the Daily Herald reported. Bhagwakar also reportedly turned down takeover offers from the theatre’s former general manager and a local trucking company owner who said he offered him a blank check to buy the theater.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on February 27, 2018 at 10:56 am

City of Des Plaines makes first council vote in buying the theater. Link below.

https://www.journal-topics.com/articles/council-votes-7-1-to-move-forward-with-theater-purchase/

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