Thunderbird Theatre

708 S. Goodwin Avenue,
Urbana, IL 61801

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Thunderbird Theatre/Canopy Club, Urbana, IL

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The Thunderbird Theatre opened in 1966, for Ray Timpone, who named the theatre for a restaurant he owned which closed prior to the building of the movie house. It could seat 850 originally, and featured a Native American theme inside, after the University of Illinois' Fighting Illini, including a large wooden Indian chief in the lobby.

The Thunderbird Theatre was originally equipped with a Cinemascope screen, and its opening night film was “Promise Her Anything”.

While the Thunderbird Theatre was a first-run house for its first couple years in operation, during the early-to-mid 1970’s, it experimented with different formats, including Disney films, foreign films, and double-feature revival films. It eventually settled into second-run fare for many years. By the early-1990’s, the Thunderbird Theatre had returned to first-run movies.

In 1991, the last chain to run it, GKC Theatres, closed the theatre, but it briefly reopened once more in 1993-94. In 1996, Barry Schain and George Smiley opened the Thunderbird Theatre up again, after minor remodeling, including the removal of about 100 seats, as the Thunderbird Brew'n'View, which would prove even more appealing to the college populace than its previous incarnation, with the added draw of being able to shout at the top of your lungs at the screen, while drinking alcoholic beverages and generally having a great time.

In recent years, the Thunderbird Theatre has seen yet another change, as a concert venue, the Canopy Club at the Thunderbird. The “canopy” in the name refers to the new interior decor, a rain forest theme, complete with fake trees and vines climbing up the side walls and across the ceiling.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 2 comments)

jjc
jjc on August 27, 2007 at 7:09 pm

Only went to The Thunderbird once while at U of I. Saw the Talking Heads concert movie “Stop Making Sense” and remember being struck by the theater’s cool American Indian design motif. Movie was great too.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on March 23, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Here is an article about the opening from Boxoffice in June 1964:
http://tinyurl.com/y8tzpvb

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