Roxy Theatre

12 N. Ayer Street,
Harvard, IL 60033

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Roxy Theatre (Saint Marys Bookstore), Harvard, IL

Opened in 1920 as the Majestic, seating around 300, the theater was renamed the Roxy in 1937. While it closed as a movie house during the early 60s, the building now houses a senior citizen’s center.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 3 comments)

JimRankin on May 27, 2004 at 2:45 am

It is amazing how many theatres are named ROXY in imitation of the once famous name of the New York City panjandrum of the movie palace: Samual Lionel Rothapfel = “Roxy”. His namesake was the famous ROXY THEATRE in NYC, which outlasted him by only 25 years when it was demolished in 1960. The whole story is in that landmark book “The Best Remaining Seats: The Story of the Golden Age of the Movie Palace” by the late Ben M. Hall in 1961. Various editions of it are sometimes available from, but only the first edition contains the color plates.

kencmcintyre on June 7, 2008 at 5:45 pm

I found this photo on wikipedia. It can be enlarged. I think that one of the buildings in the group of three down the street is the former Roxy, but it’s hard to tell as there isn’t much information available. Perhaps someone from the Harvard area can take a look at this and fill me in.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 13, 2010 at 6:32 am

The Roxy has a longer and more interesting history than we suspected, and it probably last operated under the name Harvard Theatre. Oddly, so did the rival house, the Saunders Theatre.

A September 3, 1949, Boxoffice item said that William Johnson, operator of the Roxy Theatre at Harvard, had purchased the theater building from Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Carpenter. Johnson planned to completely modernize and redecorate the house, a project he expected to be complete by fall.

It looks as though it took him a bit longer than he expected. Boxoffice of February 4, 1950, reported that the new Harvard Theatre, formerly the Roxy, had been reopened by Bill Johnson after extensive redecoration.

Johnson didn’t keep his renovated theater very long, as Boxoffice of November 21, 1953, had this news: “H. W. ‘Bill’ Johnson, owner and operator of the Harvard Theatre here since 1939, has sold his business and has leased his theatre to the Harvard Theatre Corp., operator of the Saunders Theatre here and the Wentworth in Wentworth, Wis.”

The Papas brothers, owners of the Harvard Theatre Corp., didn’t operated their new acquisition even as long as Johnson had run it after the renovation. Boxoffice of January 30, 1954, said that the Pappas brothers were closing the Harvard Theatre, which had been in operation for 75 years. That means the opening year was probably 1878 or 1879.

I’ve been unable to find any theaters listed for Harvard, Illinois, in any edition of Julius Cohn’s Official Theatrical Guide, but I did find volumes of the annual report of the Wisconsin Horticultural Society from 1906 and 1907, each of which said that the society had held its annual convention at the Opera House in Harvard, Illinois. There is a single Boxoffice reference to the Harvard Opera House, in an item from 1943 about a theater manager who had begun his career as a prop boy there 35 years earlier.

I’m quite disappointed that I’ve been unable to find any mention of the Majestic Theatre at Harvard. 12 N. Ayer Street is currently listed in the Internet as the location of the Salvation Army. I don’t know how up-to-date that is. It’s also listed as the address of something called Milk Center Senior Citizens. Somehow I don’t think it’s named for Harvey Milk.

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