Town & Country Theatres

555 E. Palatine Road,
Arlington Heights, IL 60004

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Showing 18 comments

rivest266 on November 10, 2016 at 4:03 pm

May 22nd, 1981 grand opening ad in the photo section.

swhockey98 on March 26, 2013 at 6:41 am

I know this is an old thread, but if anyone has any picture scans of the theater or any pictures of the old Town & Country Mall can you please upload them? Billymac’s photo link doesn’t seem to be working:

I miss the T&C. :(

rivest266 on June 18, 2012 at 4:53 pm

May 15th, 1981 grand opening ad in photo section

SchaefMan on June 2, 2008 at 3:33 pm

Wow… I worked at T&C during my Senior Year, in 1983, with Chris Lindgren. That was fun, espcially when we played movies like “Let’s Spend the Night Together” by the Stones….

Plenty of after work gatherings in the back parking lot, sometimes fueled by any unopened beer we could confiscate from the patrons, specifically, patrons that came to see the above concert films.

I also remember First Blood, Tron, Tootsie, etc… It was tough to watch these movies on video later, since I had seen the ending about 100 times…lol..

ghowmedic on April 25, 2008 at 5:55 pm

Great post. You are correct, but those of us that worked there in the early days, are also correct. When the theater opened as an Essaness Theater the concession counter was centered in the lobby. Two “holding pens” were often created for the theaters that held the most amount of people. Those were theaters 1 & 2 located straight in from the lobby. They had a capacity of approximately 300-400 people. In those days, these theaters seemed quite small compared to the Big Brother theaters at Woodfield which held 1000 and 800 people. Back then it was not uncommon to have lines of people snaked into the mall waiting to see the big show that was premiering that weekend. On a weekend night, the only things that were open in the mall were the Theater, the game room and of course Swensons Ice Cream counter.
This was a favorite location of all the theater employees.

The theater also had four other theaters. Two of the theaters were located in the hallway to the left along with the men’s bathroom. These were known as theaters 3 and 4. Theaters 5 and 6 were located in the hallway to the right, along with the womens bathroom. At the top of the landing there was an area for approximately 3 video games.

Around the time Cineplex Odeon was entering the Chicago market, they had purchased Plitt Theaters, then Essaness theaters. Town & Country theaters did not fit into the “design” that Cineplex Odeon had made famous in other parts of the country. Thus Town & Country was closed for renovations.

One of the most significant renovations that was done was the move of the concession stand to the side wall of the lobby, as indicated by Brian’s memory.

The theaters did not recieve significant renovation to attact people away from the Multi-Million Theater – Ridge Cinemas, that was the jewel of the northwest suburbs. It had old school theater seating with uncomfortable chairs. No rocking, and not much padding.

It was reopened as a Cineplex Odeon Theater.

-Gary Howorka

brianbobcat on April 24, 2008 at 7:21 pm

I’ve got to disagree with several of the previous commenters. Granted I never worked here as I was too young, but that youth’s memory has it’s advantages. I remember the concession stand squarely up against the west wall with a large open space behind the ticket booth but in front of the theaters-where others have said the pentagonal concession stand was. They must’ve moved it at some point because I Distinctly remember a mosaic of comic and movie characters over the western concession stand. Now to add more details: the two main theaters (don’t remember what numbers) were straight in from the lobby. One was east and the other west facing. On the south side of the theaters was a hallway that house the other 4 smaller theaters. The two large ones were fairly narrow, I’d say no more than 50 seats wide, but 2-3x as deep. I can’t say I remember seeing a specific film here, but know I went numerous times.

The mall closed for numerous reasons. The theater and arcade (Just for Fun) was a great 1-2 punch for families, the theater gets the adults there and the Arcade hooks the kids. The western side of the mall wasn’t too well off (it house a temporary haunted house one year I remember) so Lord & Taylor consumed that whole west end. Then both it and the theaters went out almost simultaneously, it was too big a loss for the mall to survive. With the theaters gone, the arcade didn’t last and neither did the gaming store. The Dick’s is now open, a Jo Ann’s took over much of the Lord & Taylor, in fact, you can tell form inside where the mall hallway was based upon the ceiling joists.

A shame this theater went out since I lived SO close to it.


Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on April 23, 2008 at 6:26 pm

That’s an interesting ad, Ken MC. Only the Catlow and the Liberty 1&2 remain open, all of the others have been closed.

kencmcintyre on August 3, 2007 at 11:17 pm

Here is an ad from the Daily Herald dated 8/31/81:

billymac72 on January 23, 2007 at 4:47 am

Here’s a couple of pics I took of the shuttered Town & Country mall exterior. I believe this has now all been torn down. This entrance also lead to the theater. I wish I put my camera up to the glass for a few photos…I might have caught the theater in the back.

ghowmedic on December 7, 2006 at 11:21 pm

Hey Anna Banana….. I remember you, thanks for bringing back some of the great times of High School Life. Those late night parties were a blast. As an usher that worked there I was up to date on every movie that came out for many years. Even though you see portions of movies while working, the free movies made it possible to see at least one movie a week. Going to the movies is still one of my favorite things to do.

Part of the demise of TNC was also the opening of Ridge Cinemas under the parent company of Cineplex Odeon. A true palace when it opened. But as with all things, that theater as beautiful as it was, suffered from an overpopulation of movie screens in the Chicago area. Trying to monopolize the market place, Garth Drabinski (former CEO of Cineplex Odeon) over extended himself and the company was eventually bought by Lowes Movie Theaters, at which time the less pretty theaters such as TNC, became extinct.

For those of you reminiscing the concession counter had five sides to it. When you walked in past the box office you were greeted with the point of the concession stand. This was centered approx. ten feet from the box office. Which by the way has a swinging door on it (no locks or cages back then). The point extended approx. ten feet to the portion of the stand that was parallel with the sides of the lobby. It was probably another twenty feet long. The inside employee area of the concession stand was maybe eight to ten feet wide. The end of the concession stand ended at the hallway where the four minor theaters had their access.

As Anna said earlier, more than one person (including myself) landed on that inclined tile floor of the concession stand.

Just past the hallway was the access for the two major theaters, where the first run popular movies saw life. Down each hallway sat two minor theaters that were smaller in size maybe 80 – 100 people could fit in each of those.

The best time that a guy could have is being a teenager theater usher, you had the power to confiscate the beer that patrons would bring in and of course drink the full unopened ones later, not to mention having the authority to kick out movie hoppers. It was easier back then. The theaters were smaller.

The brown polyester was not fun to wear, definitely hot in the summertime.

It was sad to see it go. I think I still have my nametag from the Essaness days.

Take care of the memories!!

Gary Howorka
Port Richey, FL
TNC employee ‘84-'90

billymac72 on August 24, 2006 at 5:25 am

Great recollections, Anna. The “Breakfast Club” vibe you mention was definitely the atmosphere at the time. Strange how much things change! I totally forgot about those doormen! And what was with that weird incline leading to the theater? How strange that it extended into the concessions.

Some films I saw there: The Outsiders (about 5 times), Max Dugan Returns, Gremlins, Friday the 13th Part 4, Christine, Something Wicked this Way Comes, Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom, Lassiter, High Road to China (just can’t get enough of that Tom Selleck I guess), WarGames, One Dark Night.

Annamarieb on June 2, 2006 at 4:24 am

The things I thought would last forever are changing everyday.

What was once the arena of my confused teenage years, has been replaced with a Dick’s Sporting Goods, Ashley Furniture and Joanne Craft store complete with modern dryvit exterior. Ahhh Town & Country Mall. People used to ‘hang’ at TNC. Not just the employees -on any given Friday or Saturday, you’d find students from at least 6 neighboring High Schools (Palatine, Forest View, Buffalo Grove, St. Viater’s, Hersey, Fremd) it was the suburban teenage melting pot.

Essaness Town & Country Theater was the center of it all. Staffed with its’ own sort of melting pot. We were an overpopulated Breakfast Club detention libraryâ€"but we got paid and free movies. Our manager â€" who at late-20’s maybe early 30’s seemed ancient to his crew, but he could “BUY”. And, amazingly enough â€" they were all friends.

Since the site is named ‘Cinema Treasures’ and not ‘Dead Malls’ (which by the way, does exist). I won’t go into the list of tenants TNC had(including but not limited to, Big Daddy’s Records, Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream Parlor, Waist Up [remember iron-on t-shirts?], the Gift Loft, Thom McCann & Kinney’s [uh-oh rival shoe stores], I believe TNC.gave birth to the first Gamers’ Paradise, and the arcade was named ‘Just for Fun’ Okay I lied. Let’s talk about Essaness Town & Country Theatre!

Yes, it anchored TNC mall. It was the center. And people would line up to purchase tickets from open counter of the box office â€" no protective glass here. Wads of cash were shoved into little safes located near the floors. $3.75 was the full price admission for a full length feature in 1985.

The Door Man, clad in a brown, polyester, velvet trimmed suit would greet you and direct you to your theatre, or put you in a holding pen, which was fashioned out of velvet ropes until it was time for your movie to begin.

It was while being held captive that the concession attendants, dressed in black slacks, b&w striped shirts, with puffy sleeves (long before Jerry Seinfeld) topped off with a red bow ties – would serve you popcorn, candy and soda â€" at ridiculous prices. For years they offered Pepsi, however, somewhere in the very late 80’s, Coke did take over, (probably the same time Plitt purchased the theater chain, before becoming Cineplex Odeon). The concession stand was accessible 360 degrees â€" not that there was always available staff. If you failed to purchase prior to the show, no worries, for the sold out features, the ushers would sell it to you, right at your seat, while the movie was going.

I don’t remember the capacity of the theaters. I don’t remember the seats being miserable. I do remember “Bolero” showing in theater #6 and men would approach the box office and ask â€" for Theater #6….like we didn’t’ know where they were going. I remember the concession stand was constructed on a slight incline â€" which provided hours of entertainment slipping on spilled popcorn butter and nacho cheese. I remember the aroma of the occasional burnt popcorn batch, and the frustration of having to start the popcorn all over again when a Lee Press-On nail went missing. I know on Thursday nights the doorman and/or the ushers would change the Marquee on Route 12. I remember ‘Behind the Marquee’, a newsletter provided by Essaness for its staff. I remember Moviegoer magazine, provided free to movie going patrons. I still have the Tom Hanks poster somewhere. I remember one failed attempt at a midnight movie of “This is Spinal Tap” â€"six showed up. I remember Joe, the projectionist who would screen midnight showings for the employees â€" prior to a big release.

I also remember that I have better memories of working at Essaness Town & Country Theaters than I do High School. And with my 20 year reunion, hanging like a black cloud over my head, I decided to see if anyone else had the same fond memories and came across this site. So, to Heather W., Sue L., George M, Bill D., Sean W. Dave C., Kathy P., Terri J., Mike W., James H., Rich G, Bob(the doorman), Sue S.,Sandra S., Gary H., the older Gary, Jack N., Kevin S., Brett V., Brian A., Karen P., Jerry H., Carol V., and Mr. A & Mr. V (“you will be terminated”), and the rest. I remember you all fondly. If you ever come across this information track me down.

Anna ‘Banana’ Barath
TNC employee ’84-‘89

ProducerJoey on March 28, 2006 at 9:07 pm

Okay, here goes. I clearly remember driving down Rand Road heading North and approaching Palatine Road in 5th grade (1980). The “coming soon” signs for the new mall were in place and my mom said “Kids, remember what this looks like, it will never be the same after they build that mall”. Both sides of Rand Road at Palatine were still vacant farm fields and so hard to believe. I do know that Northpoint shopping center was up and running by then though. Cub foods didn’t arrive until 1984 as well as the adjoining Southpoint Mall. My mom had grown up just 3 blocks south of Town n Country on Thomas Street. I have home movies facing east from mom’s back yard in 1954 to what would later become the Town n Country property in 1981. Thomas St. was just a white stone dusty road at that time.
My Grandparents sold around 1968 as the country feel was fading fast with the new subdivisions sprouting up around them. With regards to the theater, I do remember seeing “Adventures in Babysitting” senior year at the Town n Country in June, 1987. The theaters were almost identical to the now shuttered Golf Glen Theatres in Niles (Cineplex Odeon style). Per a question above with regards to the interiors, as of today’s date, a very similar interior to Town n Country would be that of The Buffalo Grove theatres. Very similar. Just saw a movie there and it reminded me alot of the Town n Country theatres..not the lobby, but the theatres themselves. Hope this helps.

Broan on July 9, 2005 at 8:00 am

This opened in mid-1981, was known as Town ‘N Country Theaters until aquired by Cineplex, facade remodelings on the mall were in 1992, and closed mid-January 2001. It is set to be torn down and replaced by a Dick’s Sporting Goods shortly.

Also notable is that a homemade bomb was discovered atop the roof during a showing of Last Temptation of Christ in 1988. Article Here

billymac72 on November 6, 2004 at 9:39 am

It was a basic multiplex style interior (actually, the first I can think of in the area). The theaters were fairly small, but well-kept (at least in its early days). Seems that the theaters were essentially arranged in a series of sub-halls, as opposed to the long corridors Cineplex Odeons usually have today, if that makes any sense. I remember the color scheme being muted tones; blacks, grays and navy blues. If you continued to walk straight at the main entrance of the mall, the theater was at the very end of concourse after the floor begins a gradual incline (a somewhat strange design). The ticket booth was at its entrance, and from the outside, the interior appeared very dark, which was not uncommon for theaters at the time. I think there was a marquee above the ticket booth, and possibly a hint of neon in there someplace too, either around the marquee or at the concessions. I know there was some color in the theater numbers, which were each a different shade on the marquee (it was the same scheme on the one in front of the mall as well) I’m pretty sure the concession counter was almost immediately after the ticket booth, in front of the theaters. This counter may have been circular or rectangular (allowing access on 4 sides)…I can’t remember positively. The large arcade that I mentioned above was directly to the right of the theater were one to face its entrance/ticket booths.

As far as the theaters themselves, I don’t remember anything really noteworthy about them. I think they were generally small to medium sized. There could’ve been a variety of sizes. I also remember, unfortunately, smoking cigarettes directly outside the theaters, which was allowed in those days. I remember the corridors having nice leather benches/lounges and foliage (perhaps these were around the bathroom areas)…and of course the obligatory silver ashtrays (the standing cylindrical kind next to the benches).

Town & Country was certainly nothing spectacular, but it was a nice, pleasant place to see a flick then. I would guess if I were to go back in time to visit it again, I would find it grossly outmoded. But it was very clean & neat and got good crowds during its first handful of years. The last time I was there, in about ‘86, it was basically the same way. Considering that it’s now closed, I’m guessing the quality of the place went downhill through the 90’s.

By the way, thanks much for the date on “Deathtrap!” My brother’s birthday is in March, so that matches up perfectly! The opening date listed above for this theater (1984) is certainly wrong.

CinemarkFan on October 30, 2004 at 9:59 am

Deathtrap came out March 19th 1982. Also, this cinema was originally opened by Essaness Theatres, then Cineplex Odeon took over. By the way, what did this cinema look like on the inside? I would really like to know.

billymac72 on September 3, 2004 at 7:59 am

I think the last flick I saw at Town & Country was around ’86 or so. I took a date to see “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” Pretty awful stuff. Town & Country was simply an unsuccessful venture (come to think of it, I think there was a Venture there at one time!) I was in the area last night, in fact, and hadn’t even noticed that the mall had closed (there are a lot of trees lining the parking lot, so it’s not immediately visible to a passerby). It looked pretty ratty too. I drove up to the main entrance & peered inside and could just make out the corridor where the theater was. The façade was different from how I remember too. Perhaps it was redone at some point in the late 80s??? According to the Chicago Tribune, the initiatives to redevelop the mall were approved about 3 years ago. The plans, however, were put on an extension for 2 years, which I think has now passed. The village wants to tear down the indoor portion of the mall & build new retail. Nothing is happening but those signs announcing “redevelopment.” Something will happen eventually….I’m not really worried about that. However, in my opinion, Arlington Heights is a great community with fantastic resources & amenities, but the area in which Town & Country sits (Rand & Palatine Rds) is completely overdeveloped with retail. It’s virtually a continuous strip mall for a two mile radius. I would love to see them bulldoze the mall & redevelop it with very modest retail & new residential.

My memories of Town & Country are exclusively from its first years of operation when it was still new and happening (apparently that was very short lived!). There was a Showbiz Pizza there (the early 80s equivalent of Chuck E. Cheese. I believe this was at what is now Old Country Buffet) and I recall doing birthday parties combined with movies. In fact, my brother’s birthday was held at Showbiz, and we saw “Deathtrap” before going, which would put the time at ’81, I think. I also remember someone giving him the Rolling Stones’ “Tattoo You” album as a gift, which further dates this. I know I saw “The Outsiders,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” “Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom,” & “High Road to China” there, so it was definitely there in ’82 or ’83 at the latest. There was also a great arcade in the mall right outside the entrance to the theater that I spent a lot of time playing “Gorf” and “Wizard of Wor” at, amongst others.

Broan on July 10, 2004 at 2:12 pm

Actually the Mall, and almost certainly the theatres, still exist. There are signs heralding “The Redevelopment of Town & Country Mall”, but absolutely nothing is happening. The only remaining tenant in the mall is Old Country Buffet, I think. The street sign for the theater is still up, and the mall portion is still standing. It was an odd mall, there are several big-box stores (Best Buy, Marshalls, Dominicks, and the now-closed Lord and Taylor Outlet and Service Merchandise). It was essentially a strip mall, except with all the big boxes outside and the small stores inside… obviously a concept that didn’t work out well.