Saunders Theater

21 N. Ayer Street,
Harvard, IL 60033

Unfavorite No one has favorited this theater yet

Saunders Theater, Harvard, IL

Opened in 1913 on Ayer Street as the Palace Theater, this theater moved into a new building just up the street in 1925, and was renamed the Saunders Theater at this time. The new theater could seat about 500. On September 18, 1975 the Saunders Theater began showing pornographic films and was renamed The Show in Harvard. It was closed around 1980.

Contributed by Bryan

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

kencmcintyre on September 24, 2007 at 10:34 pm

In 1970 the Saunders was operated by the Alliance Amusement Co. President was Spiro J. Papas.

kencmcintyre on September 24, 2007 at 10:51 pm

I think they got the information for the motion picture almanacs about six months ahead of time, so it could have closed in 1970. I’ve seen a few 1970 entries where the theater had already been demolished the year before.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 13, 2010 at 9:22 am

Boxoffice of December 6, 1947, said that the Saunders Theatre had been taken over from Bertha Saunders by the Papas brothers and their father, John. The theater was to be remodeled and renamed the Harvard. Apparently they changed their minds about the renaming. Perhaps they decided it was cheaper to refurbish the existing signage. As I found C.J. Papas mentioned in Boxoffice as owner of the Saunders as early as 1943, the 1947 item must have meant that Bertha Saunders had sold the building to them.

A November 7, 1942, Boxoffice item says “C.J. Chapin has resigned as manager of the Saunders Theatre in Harvard after being associated with its operation for 35 years.” If there is no error in that report, that would push the opening of the theater back to at least 1907.

Eventually, the Saunders did get renamed the Harvard Theatre. Boxoffice of April 29, 1969, made the announcement that Robert and Roberta Hume of Harvard would renovate and reopen the old Saunders Theatre, which had been closed for several years.

A Boxoffice article of March 23, 1970, says that the Harvard Theatre had opened on February 23, after a year of remodeling which converted it into a “…luxurious 400-seat showhouse.” The last mention of the Harvard Theatre I’ve found is in Boxoffice of September 18, 1972, when operator Hume, Inc., was charged with showing an obscene film. The name of the film was not given, but the address was given as 21 N. Ayer Street. (I checked Google and sure enough, there’s no “s” on the street name.)

The current occupant of the building at 21 N. Ayer Street is a restaurant called Pico de Gallo, according to the Internets. On Google Street View it looks like a single floor, but the 1970 item about the Harvard Theatre said there was a balcony. Perhaps the upper floor has been chopped off, or maybe it was actually in the two-story building next door (probably 23 N. Ayer) and Boxoffice was off a bit.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 13, 2010 at 10:46 am

I don’t think the theater was actually showing pornography in 1965. I think the charge was probably over one of the early X-rated movies, perhaps Midnight Cowboy. The local officials of this small town were most likely a bit overwrought.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 13, 2010 at 10:53 am

Oh, wait. Midnight Cowboy came out in 1969. The book was from 1965.

In any case, the 1970 article said that the theater had been closed for several years before reopening that year as the Harvard Theatre, and it wasn’t a cheap remodel. The Harvard was a first-run theater. What film got the shorts of the local police in a wad in 1972 I don’t know, but there were plenty of mainstream Hollywood movies then that could have had such an effect in a small town.

Trolleyguy on March 14, 2012 at 7:27 pm

The Google view has it right. It’s the tall building in the center.

rivest266 on August 28, 2016 at 4:18 pm

September 18th, 1975 grand opening ad as The Show in Harvard can be found in the photo section. Adult movies were shown.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater