Wilmette Theatre

1122 Central Avenue,
Wilmette, IL 60091

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Wilmette Theatre circa 1930. Photo Source Unknown

Viewing: Photo | Street View

This theater was built in 1914, and was originally called the Central Theatre. It was twinned in 1989, and, although the lobby portion of the building retains much of its vintage charm, the house is, sadly, down to concrete walls with acoustical panels. The exterior blends in with most other buildings of its era, but has a charming juxtaposition with its marquee and box office.

The shows are well worth it at only three dollars, and likewise reasonable concessions, and the fare is generally art and independent. It’s a gem!

Contributed by Brian Wolf

Recent comments (view all 30 comments)

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on July 21, 2007 at 1:31 pm

That marquee is u-g-l-y!

I saw two movies here, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL and THE TAILOR OF PANAMA. The latter was in 2000 or 2001. I recall the place being tiny and it reminded me of the 3Penny or the Village. Now it’s been renovated? How?

RobinW on February 19, 2008 at 9:43 pm

The new marquee on the theatre is indeed ugly! Or perhaps “minimalist” is the proper word here. I’ve been to this theatre a couple of times and it is a cramped, unpleasant place. Paul F, I saw “Life is Beautiful” here and I thought the movie was condescending, trivializing, and appalling.

Cam on April 5, 2008 at 3:32 pm

Some recent photos of the exterior are in set #23, here:

DavidZornig on November 21, 2008 at 2:42 am

My father worked for John Colburn in the late 50's or early60’s. Before going down to Vougue Wright & Fred Niles Studios (Which Oprah eventually bought).

I was at the Wilmette a couple times in the 60's, then again in the70’s.
Thought I saw “Hot Rod” with Pernell Roberts & Robert Culp there.
But I can’t recall if that was originally a theatrical release or made for TV. Might have been a second run of “The Wanderers” with Ken Wahl.

There used to be a vintage ice cream/burger shop called Bob’s about a block away. It had dark wood walls and old style ice cream glasses. Many families would go there with kids in tow.

ws2 on November 27, 2008 at 6:50 pm

I was googling and came across this clip of the theater on youtube:


CinemarkFan on November 27, 2008 at 7:46 pm

Awesome find. Thanks for sharing.

DavidZornig on April 26, 2009 at 12:30 am

There currently are more live music events at the Wilmette. Various members of the Chicago Cabaret Professionals have had featured showcases there, as well as at the Skokie Theatre.

P.S. That Wilmette Chuck Wagon next door had great burgers also back in the day. I believe it may still be there.

DavidZornig on April 12, 2015 at 3:28 pm

The following list is credited to and courtesy of Greg Wall. Via the “You Know You’re From East Wilmette When…” Facebook page.

Wilmette Theater Fun Facts

1) It went back into business after a period of being dark in 66. It was being used as offices for an industrial filmmaker for a time.

2) Many long in the tooth theater ideas were employed by the management to drum up business, including kiddie matinees which featured terrible films by K Gordon Murry made on the cheap in Florida.

3) There was a record store next store briefly that might have been run by the same guy who ran the theater.

4) They played the “czech new wave” film “Closely Watched Trains” forever. The local yokels were calling it the “Closely Watched Trains” Theater. Same with “Z”

5) Double Bill: “On Her Majesties' Secret Service” and “The Secret Of Santa Victoria.”

6) Terrible sight lines and bad sound.

7) The lowly “Chuck Wagon” next store has surprisingly been one of the districts most enduring businesses. Yet the Baskin Robins did close.

8) They did book a flat out porno at one point to some local consternation.

9) They had many great revivals: Including a Hitchcock Festival, King Kong, and The General.

10) It is over one hundred years old.

Broan on April 12, 2015 at 4:32 pm

I recently posted a still from an industrial film featuring the Wilmette.

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