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Rita Rinelli gets into the act at the do-it-yourself HITCHCOCK poster in the grand lobby of the ORIENTAL Theatre.
“Preservation Chicago is working closely with Craig Loftis, leadership of the Great Lakes Elks Club, their architect and lawyers, and other stakeholders to prevent the demolition of the Lodge. Urgency steps are being taken to resolve and correct deferred maintenance issues that have been identified by city inspectors. Additinally, we have attended Building Court to stand alongside preservation partners to formally request a delay in any movement towards emergency demolition and to request additinoal time to raise funds and hire contractors to resolve specific code related issues. Significant progress is being made. Additionally, we are working to help resolve contradictory directives from the City of Chicago regarding the Elks Lodge status as a theater or a dance club.
The 86-year-old space–once a cinema and meeting point for the Chicago Suffragists–was opened as a private house music members club in 2015 by local artist Craig Loftis. He told Resident Advisor that he’s been battling with the City Council over “minor issues” to do with the building for several years.
Since 1937, the building has been under the ownership of African-American fraternity group The Elks. Members of the group have been throwing music and dance events for the local community for decades. Loftis, who is also a member of the group, told RA that without the means to stay open for business, raising the target amount has become a catch-22 situation. For this reason, Loftis has launched a fundraiser to help the cause. While he’s confident that he can make the necessary repairs by the chosen date, he said shutting the building down was ‘unwarranted when one branch of the city government said we were operating in complete compliance and the other decided we weren’t.’
Preservation Chicago, a local architectural conservation group, has joined forces with Loftis to help protect the venue from any possible future demolition threats, should it ever change hands. If granted, this would give the venue the chance to apply for city funding to help with restoration and renovation.
The group’s spokesperson, Max Chavez, told RA that an application to get the building landmark status was submitted to the local authority last week and achieving this will mean the building ‘would be well-positioned’ to receive the funds. He continued: ‘Preservation Chicago is proud to partner with Craig Loftis on this important effort to save this significant historic site. This building is too important to lose and deserves to be honored as an official Chicago landmark.‘ (Resident Advisor, 9/27/23)
The venue will go into receivership and shut for good without the necessary funding. (Resident Advisor, 9/27/23)
(© Preservation Chicago | All rights reserved)
Quincy Jones, actress/singer Jennifer Hudson, and entertainer Chance the Rapper and Quincy Jones have teamed up to reopen and revitalize the Ramova Theatre. Jones told the media “With Ramova, I see a future where the rich cultural heritage of Chicago shines even brighter alongside the country’s most talented artists, which will inspire future generations to come and bring glory to America’s Second City.” A press release said “Ramova will also offer educational programs [and] workshops, and amplify community initiatives from local nonprofits.” And the Ramova Grill, which closed in 2012 after 82 years of service, is reopening as a 20-seat restaurant.
No doubt there are people today who gaze at the long-silent theatre, and imagine all sorts of architectural wonders within. They’d be disappointed, since Charles Augustine had to work within a budget, and he saved most of the ornament for the outer facade (much of which is still visible). The Vogue Theatre got a handsome, well-proportioned face-brick facade heavily trimmed in cream terra cotta above and colored Irish tiles at ground level, in the American neo-classic architectural style. It was unarguably one of the best-looking of all exterior designs for a small theatre. Inside, though, the economies were apparent. A tiny lobby led directly to the auditorium; here the straight walls were relieved only by upright pilasters, panels of floral-print fabric, and double-candle light sconces of plaster with small shades. The lower walls were trimmed to resemble stone.
The reopened Ramova Theatre will also be home to Other Half Brewing, which will open a brewery and taproom inside the Ramova Theatre that will be a 1,500-capacity concert venue and dining destination in the coming months. Developer Tyler Nevius is spearheading the Ramova redevelopment with Emily Nevius, his wife. “This idea of creating a music venue and a brewery was really developed organically with them to a great extent.”
Other Half chose to join the Ramova project for one primary reason: music. Other Half’s founder Matt Mohanan said “It just seems like a natural evolution for what we’re doing. Adding a music component to what we do, we’re just lucky to be here and excited.”
Other Half Ramova will include a taproom along Halsted Street. Behind that will be a glass wall where visitors can check out the on-site brewery production floor below with around 20 draft lines available in the taproom.
Other Half Ramova will adjoin the 20-seat Ramova Grill, itself reopening after an 82-year run in 2012. Kevin Hickey and Brandon Phillips will oversee the culinary and beverage programs at the grill respectively, with a full menu available to OHR patrons.
The city bought the Ramova Theatre, closed since 1985, in 2001 to preserve it for development, but officials struggled for years to find developers willing to invest in rehabilitating it. In 2020, the Ramova was sold to a venture led by Nevius’ Our Revival Chicago LLC. The $30 million project broke ground in 2021.
There’s a plan to reopen the ROSEBUD Theatre after more than three years.
The theatre near North Avenue and 68th Street closed in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alderman Andrew Meindl, who oversees that district, told WISN 12 News the owner is targeting a Christmas return.
Meindl said the owner plans reopening the ROSEBUD as a first-run theatre with newly-released pictures.
A community-owned theatre group is looking to turn the ROSEBUD into a community-led nonprofit. The owner told Ald. Meindl he will continue working with the group on a possible transfer of ownership in 2025.
(Beginning a four-chapter feature article I wrote for the Midweek Bulletin starting November 15, 1988.)
Even today, passersby along busy 52nd Street might imagine, if they squint a bit, the old Vogue Theatre alive again, with several hundred excited kids in line for a 1940s Saturday-afternoon double-feature Western show, each clutching his or her ten-cent admission; and a harried staff struggling to keep up with the crush.
This fall marks the 100th year since the Vogue Theatre opened its doors on September 15, 1923. For the next 28 years, the Vogue was mainly an unpretentious neighborhood movie theatre, and it never attempted to outdo the bigger, grander movie palaces downtown. It fulfilled its modest role in Kenosha’s entertainment scene…until a sudden change in national trends sealed not only the Vogue’s fate but that of thousands of similar neighborhood movie houses across America.
In 1923, postwar America was basking in prosperity; President Calvin (“Silent Cal”) Coolidge took office, and Hollywood was in its lusty adolescence. Just ten years earlier, most movies were brief little novelties shown in “nickelodeons,” converted storefronts with blackened windows and rows of benches seating perhaps 75 people, with a sheet for a screen. (One of the first of these, the Electric Theatre, was operated by Adolph Alfieri on north Seventh Avenue east of Union Park.) But in the early 20s the movies were eager for respectability, so real movie theatres were being built everywhere by recently-formed chains or by single entrepeneurs eager to cash in on America’s growing love for the ever-improving medium of film.
Water Schager ran several theatres in Kenosha with his wife Rose. But Prohibition was on, and those who once sold or made liquor and beer were looking to invest in other ventures. As an example, Racine’s Klinkert Brewery had just built the BUTTERFLY (later, HOLLYWOOD) Theatre at 4902 Seventh Avenue.
In 1923, Kenosha’s operating film theaters included the Z Rhode Opera House, the new ORPHEUM, the BUTTERFLY, the BURKE (later CAMEO), the MAJESTIC, the LINCOLN, the STRAND (later NORGE), and the COLUMBIA. (The Kenosha, Gateway and Roosevelt Theatres were still four years in the future.) But in a time when people were much less mobile and by far more apt to function mostly within their home neighborhoods, Kenosha’s central city had no movie house of its own.
Schlager selected some long-vacant property at 1820 52nd Street and had well-known Kenosha architect Charles Augustine design a state-of-the-art theatre for the site. (Augustine lived then with his wife Lillian at 7428 22nd Avenue; his designs include the Terrace Court Apartments, the West Branch Library, the old Barden Store and the Roosevelt Theatre.) Then Schlager signed on long-time contractor George Lindemann of 4724 Fifth Avenue to build his new Vogue Theatre. Work continued throughout the summer of 1923 as passing motorists and passengers on the Grand Avenue line of the Kenosha Electric Railway monitored the theatre’s progress. The final touch was the installation of the vertical sign, traditional on theatres then, which spelled out VOGUE in white bulbs with a twinkling border; the sign was visible for over ten blocks in either direction. That was the clue the Vogue Theatre was ready, and in early September small teaser ads appeared in the papers - not that anyone needed teasing, of course. A full page ad appeared on opening night, Saturday, September 15, 1923 in which manager Clarence Eschenberg welcomed present and future patrons, concluding with “This is your theatre.”
The Vogue’s doors opened at six p.m.; adult tickets were 25 cents and children paid a dime.
The Majestic Theater was established in 1909 by the partnership of Italian immigrants Ciali (Charles) Pacini, Joseph Unti and Dominic Lencioni of Kenosha. The Majestic was located in a building owned by the estate of Rasmus O. Gottfredson. Though a lease agreement would have been approved, it was not recorded with the Register of Deeds. Prior to their lease agreement, the building had been occupied by the Oscar Robbel Laundry.
The grand opening of the Majestic was held on Saturday, December 4, 1909 following the conversion of the building into a moving picture and music playhouse.
The Majestic closed around April 27, 1912 when its last advertisement appeared in the Kenosha Evening News. When it re-opened on Saturday, August 17, 1912, it was called the New Majestic Theater. The Monday, August 19, 1912 issue of the Kenosha Evening News gave rave reviews about the New Majestic Theater, reporting eight shows on Saturday attracted 2100 patrons. The theater had been renovated with soft concrete floors and expanded seating. Most noticeable was the installation of the first “daylight pictures” system in Kenosha, where films were shown on a mirror screen 110 feet from the projector. The article said the picture on the screen was of such clarity that the theater was lighted at all times.
At the re-opening, Charles Pacini was the sole proprietor, Unti and Lencioni having left the partnership. Dominic Lencioni started his own business, a confectionery store. at 69 N. Main Street (5030 6th Avenue) in Kenosha. Joseph Unti left the theatrical business to work as a clerk for Dominic Unti at his confectionery at 317 Main Street (5824 6th Avenue) in Kenosha.
On July 21, 1913, the Majestic closed again for four days for the installation of new leather seats and other interior and exterior improvements. Pacini assured the public the Majestic would continue with the best in pictures, music and general features.
On April 25, 1919, Catherine Gottfredson became sole owner of the property and building as the beneficiary of a last will & testament, and by then, Pacini had established the Charles Pacini Amusements pmanagement company, with the motto “Go where the crowd goes.”
On December 29, 1919, the Kenosha Evening News reported on an ambitious expansion of the New Majestic Theater by Charles Pacini Amusements. Pacini had secured possession of the Matt D. Schmidt Building just to the north of the theater. The addition would have doubled the seating capacity to about 1,000, and the project was expected to begin in March, 1920 and be finished by early summer. On June 10, the Kenosha Evening News reported that builder George Lindemann of Kenosha was awarded the contract by Charles Pacini Amusements to enlarge the New Majestic, and the architect chosen was Kenoshan Charles Augustine (who would later design Kenosha’s 1927 Roosevelt Theatre). The cost of rebuilding the theater was estimated at $85,000. There would be two foyers opening into the enlarged auditorium, a right and left balcony with special exits for safety, a large organ and enlarged orchestra pit, a smoking room for the gentlemen and a lounge for the ladies. Pacini anticipated completion around November 1. But those hopes abruptly ended with the murder of Charles Pacini on August 15, 1920, shot by a lone assailant a block east at his car after he’d closed the Majestic for the evening. Though the expansion was cancelled, his estate under Charles Pacini Amusements continued with the operation of the Majestic and his other theaters. But on March 17, 1921, the Telegraph Courier reported the sale of all of Pacini’s theatrical properties and interests including the leases for the Strand, New Majestic and Butterfly Theaters to the Saxe-Dayton Orpheum Theatre Company for $100,000. The Saxe-Dayton Company was a merger of the interests of John E. and Thomas E. Saxe of Milwaukee and Edward and Fred L. Dayton of Kenosha. Willard C. Welch of Saxe Amusement Enterprises was installed as manager of the Majestic Theater, Saxe-Dayton dropping the “New” from its title to call it Saxe’s Majestic. By early 1924, Edward Dayton took over its management.
But by that December, the theater stopped advertising its listings in local newspapers, and it was not until October 1925 when advertisements resumed, and during all of 1926 the Majestic’s programs were overwhelmingly dominated by a Westerns.
Then on February 2, 1927, building owner Catherine Gottfredson entered into a lease agreement with the Kenosha Orpheum Theater Company calling for a monthly payment of $400 for a period of 15 years. The manager was James L. Morrissey. Still, it appears the Majestic theater may have closed that summer, as its last advertisement in a local newspaper was on July 9, 1927. On the following December 20, the Kenosha Orpheum Theater Company subleased the theater to Midwesco Theaters Inc. at the same rates as its then-current lease with Catherine Gottfredson. It is unknown if the Majestic re-opened following the sublease, as no advertisements were placed in the local newspapers during all of 1928. On December 11 of that year the Kenosha Evening News reported that Cunningham’s Clothing Store had leased the Majestic Theater from Fox-Midwesco Enterprises for a period of 14 years, the final curtain after nineteen years at Kenosha’s Majestic Theatre.
I see that the source didn’t make it onto the post, although I felt it should be known to the public. It was a message from the operators of the Keno Family Drive-In Theatre just after its closure to dispel any misunderstandings about the reasons.
We just want to let our followers know that the Keno Drive-In movie theater will not reopen. Our company has operated the Drive-In for 9 years. Our current lease was terminated and we were advised that the owners of the property made a business decision to find another use for the property and we would not be permitted to open the Drive-In. Every attempt was made by our company to continue the operation of the theater which included participation in the conversion to digital. My family has operated Drive-In movie theaters for over 60 years and we have a passion for the continuation of this American icon. We operate another Drive-In in Illinois, Cascade Drive-In which continues to operate successfully with top grossing movies usually in the top ten of all theaters in the country. Today Drive-In movie theaters are more popular then ever thanks to people like the Kenosha residents and beyond. Our hearts go out to every person that visited the Keno Drive-In for we really appreciated your business. We would like to extend an invitation to everyone of the Kenosha residents to visit our Cascade Drive-In in Illinois free of charge for a limited time to give thanks for all the years you supported the Keno Drive-In.
The HI-WAY’s final performance for the 1950 season, its first and last, was on Saturday, September 30th. Admission was $0.55 including tax; children under 12 were admitted free, and the final two features were “Three Came Home” with Claudette Colbert, and “Sand” with Mark Stevens, Colleen Gray and Rory Calhoun.
I always noticed the theatre as well in the opening segments of Bowery Boys pictures. I clipped the scene and posted it here today.
The picture was “Kingsman”.
Across the street was the Rex Theatre at 51 South Main Street which I’ve submitted several times to New Theatres here but have been unable to get it listed. For years it’s been a Sherwin-Williams paint store. I’ll post an original photo once the listing is accepted.
Opened on Monday, August 14, 1911.
May 7, 1955.
As Congress Theater Crumbles, Developer Wants $27 Million From City To Revive Logan Square Gem
(Credit: Block Club Chicago - By Mina Bloom, February 8, 2023)
The price tag on the long-stalled project keeps going up, and the delays are getting longer — but developers say they’re still committed to overhauling and reopening the beloved venue.
LOGAN SQUARE — Closed for a decade, the Congress Theater is a shell of the gleaming movie palace and music venue it once was. Water is seeping into the 1920s venue, badly damaging the original structure and its ornate details. The plaster walls are crumbling, and parts of the ceiling have collapsed, scattering debris.
The theater’s worsening condition, combined with sky-high construction prices and other mounting costs, is complicating a local developer’s ambitious — and much-anticipated — plans to revive the Logan Square gem.
Baum Revision, a developer with a reputation for restoring historical buildings, was winding its way through the city approval process last year, but the Congress rehab project stalled as costs increased and negotiations around labor and other issues persisted, said David Baum, one of the managing principals.
“It’s been a bit of a game of whack-a-mole. Every time we think we’ve figured it out, pricing goes up,” Baum said. “Construction pricing has not been going in the right direction, interest rates continue to go up, getting loans is more difficult and general costs — energy or anything else — has been going up. … Pricing continues to go up while the condition of the building is not getting better.”
The project itself hasn’t changed: Baum still plans to fully restore the 2,900-seat music venue at 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave. and surrounding retail shops and apartments.
But the renovation is now estimated to cost $88 million, up from $70.4 million last year, Baum said. The development company is seeking $27 million in tax-increment finance dollars to cover a gap in funding. That’s $7 million more than developers asked for last year and $17 million more than the previous developer secured for a similar project. Baum’s team is working closely with city officials to nail down a redevelopment agreement and secure financing as theater operator AEG Presents and local labor union UNITE HERE Local 1 battle over a “good jobs commitment.”
If everything goes according to plan, the redevelopment project could be introduced in City Council next month, setting the stage for subsequent approval, said Baum and other players, including Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st), whose ward includes the Congress. “Trying to get this thing to work is a Rubik’s Cube,” Baum said. “We feel like we’re there, we hope that the powers that be will want to get this thing passed.”
The project is delicate, partly because there’s a lot at stake. A restored Congress will transform the abandoned Milwaukee Avenue stretch and give the broader neighborhood an economic and cultural jolt, neighbors and local leaders said.
Even though Baum is inching toward construction, some are worried the project is doomed after a series of setbacks. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned like everyone else is,” Baum said.
Baum’s project includes a rehabbed theater, roughly 5,400 square feet of retail and restaurant space along Milwaukee Avenue and Rockwell Street, 16 apartments and affordable offices and work space on the second and third floors. Fourteen of the apartments will be reserved as affordable housing.
The city’s Community Development Commission approved allocating $20 million in tax-increment financing toward the project last year, but the proposal never advanced to City Council.
After some adjustments, it seemed the revised proposal was finally headed for City Council in January with the support of Mayor Lori Lightfoot. But city officials pulled the proposal off the agenda at the last minute, La Spata said.
It also was yanked from the agenda of February’s council meeting, La Spata said.
One key issue holding up the project is the labor agreement between AEG, the theater operator, and UNITE HERE Local 1, La Spata said. Hospitality workers with the labor union are pushing AEG and the city to put a “good jobs commitment” in writing.
“UNITE HERE Local 1 opposes the use of TIF or any public subsidy for the Congress Theater redevelopment because there is no commitment from AEG that all hospitality jobs created by the redevelopment will be good jobs,” union spokesperson Elliott Mallen said in an email.
AEG didn’t respond to requests for comment. Baum said his company is not involved in labor negotiations.
La Spata, who’s involved in negotiations, said the two sides are “very, very close” to striking a deal. If the agreement is finalized, the redevelopment proposal — and the $27 million tax-increment financing allocation — will be introduced into City Council, then voted on by the finance committee and all 50 alderpeople.
La Spata and Baum hope the project will finally hit City Council in March. “We’re working on something that’s going to have a generational impact in Logan Square, and if that means it takes a few more months to get it right, I think that’s worthwhile,” La Spata said.
In Chicago, using tax-increment financing to support large projects is often controversial. Tax-increment financing districts capture all growth in the property tax base in a designated area for a set period of time, usually 20 years or more, and divert it into a special fund for projects designed to spur economic development and eradicate blight. City Council’s approval of $2 billion in tax-increment financing for megadevelopments Lincoln Yards and The 78 sparked protests and lawsuits.
Proponents of Baum’s Congress proposal said the $27 million the company wants is justifiable given the project’s large scale, the poor condition of the theater and rising development costs during the pandemic.
Aside from the lobby, which is in reasonably good shape, the entire theater is a “gut job,” Baum said. It needs a new roof, new electrical and plumbing systems and extensive preservation work, he said. “We’re talking about a project that is practically a city block long, multiple buildings, a 3,000-person theater. It does not surprise me that we’re facing a really substantial rehab,” La Spata said. “I 100 percent would not be supporting this [redevelopment] process if I didn’t feel like it came with robust and generous benefits for our community and that it was going to also have a truly catalytic effect in terms of activating some of the spaces around the Congress that we want to see get going.”
La Spata has represented the 1st Ward since 2019 and is running for reelection against three challengers, including former 1st Ward Ald. Proco Joe Moreno. .
The Congress Theater was built in 1926 by Fridstein & Co. as an ornate movie palace. One of the last remaining theaters associated with famous “moving picture theater” operators Lubliner & Trinz, the venue hosted vaudeville acts and “first-run photoplays” for years, then screened movies through the ’80s. The Congress later was refashioned into a music venue, drawing famous musicians and performers such as Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. It was designated a city landmark in 2002.
The city ordered the theater closed in 2013 following a string of code violations and years of negligence from embattled former owner Eddie Carranza.
The move also came after a series of crimes that occurred in and around the theater during shows, including the rape of a 14-year-old girl.
The city banned electronic dance music — the theater’s former music genre of choice — for all current and future owners.
Developer Michael Moyer stepped in to reopen the Congress in 2015. After years of community meetings and a multi-layered city approval process, Los Angeles-based lender and promoter AEG sued Moyer in 2020, alleging the developer defaulted on $14 million in loans. The legal trouble left the theater in the control of a court-appointed receiver.
Baum took the reins of the project in 2021. The development firm is known for restoring the Green Exchange and Margies Candies buildings, among other historical buildings.
The Congress has “been a hole in the community for a long time, but it used to be the center of the community for a long time. That’s what we enjoy doing — reimagining and bringing back things from the dead,” Baum said.
The price tag on the long-stalled project keeps going up, and the delays are getting longer — but developers say they’re still committed to overhauling and reopening the beloved venue. (Block Club Chicago)
Request For Board Action
REFERRED TO BOARD: April 27, 2022 AGENDA ITEM NO: 3
ORIGINATING DEPARTMENT: Community Development
SUBJECT: Consideration of resolution to finance the purchase of the Antioch Theatre by a private
investor in the amount of $350,000.00.
SUMMARY AND BACKGROUND OF SUBJECT MATTER:
The Staff has been working with the owner of the Antioch Theatre related to his wish to proceed
with a sale of the movie theatre. Mr. Downey has negotiated an agreement with the prospective
purchaser, Linda Monty, who wishes to purchase the theater for $400,000.00, Ms. Monty has been
before the Village Board several times and has outlined her business plan to continue to operate the
theatre as a first run movie theatre. Based on the purchaser’s inability to obtain a private bank loan
for the purchase, the applicant is requesting assistance from the Village to finance this purchase.
Staff has explored the possibility of obtaining a $350,000 bank loan, with a $50,000 down payment
from the purchaser.
The owner of the theatre has identified that prior to Covid, approximately 20,000 tickets per year
were sold. If the Village reimposed a $1.00 tax per ticket, the ticket tax would generate approximately
$20,000.00 per year. This does not include any revenue generated from a special event tax which is
being proposed at $2..00 per ticket.
Based on the proposed outline of the loan, the loan would be paid back over a 10-year period and a
ticket tax would be reimposed to assist the purchaser to pay back the loan during the 10-year loan
Staff is taking this opportunity to enclose an amortization table which shows the repayment
schedule. In addition, Staff is enclosing a copy of the Profit/Loss Statement from the current owner
prior to the Covid-breakout.
1) Village Board Staff Report
3) Amortization schedule
4) Profit/Loss Statement
Based on the foregoing analysis, Staff would make the following motion:
We move that the Village Board approve a resolution to direct the Village Attorney to draft a loan
agreement with the prospective purchaser, Linda Monty for the sum of $350,000.00 for the
purchase of the Antioch Theatre.
We move that the Village Board deny the request of the purchaser request for Village financing to
purchase the Antioch Theatre.
Old movies direct film lover into business (KENOSHA NEWS, April 1, 1984, by Dave Engels)
Henry C. Landa leads a double life. By day he teaches industrial management and engineering at the Kenosha and Racine campuses of Gateway Technical Institute. At night and during weekends the film lover is emcee owner and manager of the Gallery of the Audio Visual and Graphic Arts and Sciences, a respectable little theater on Milwaukee’s southeast side. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a family moviehouse: Dad runs the projector, Mom sells popcorn, and the kids lend a hand. too. But the unique nature of the theater doesn’t end there. To thousands of Milwaukee area cinema patrons it’s the place to go to see the greatest movies of all time - the “classics”, if you will. Landa, 49, calls it his “avocation" - a weak description, when you consider it took him eight years to build the theater and a sizeable capital investment to get the business up and running. “It’s an opportunity for people to see movies they normally wouldn’t get a chance to see,” said Landa. “A good movie endures. It can entertain and fascinate years after its release.”
Landa’s passion first produced results in the 1950s when he ran a film society at University of Wisconsin-Madison. “True film lovers are few and far between. Few people go to movies on a regular basis. Even before TV, a significant number never went to the theater.” From his college days Landa recalls a negative critic from the student-run Daily Cardinal newspaper who said “The movies coming out today are garbage.” Says Landa, “People were saying that in the ‘50s and they are still saying it today. Back then it may have been more true because some studios were putting out 50, 60, 70 films a year. "What is a classic? I don’t know. If we could define a classic, we’d probably make a lot more money. 'To Be or Not to Be’ starring Jack Benny is probably not a classic. It’s not a classic like ‘Casablanca’ because that movie-is certainly more well-known” Landa doesn’t have a list of all-time favorites and contends he could never sit and watch the same movie over and over again. Some of his personal opinions might irritate others. “'Gone with the Wind'“ wouldn’t be on my list. It’s a great sweeping story but technically not a great film. I like movies that offer insights; movies that provide some intellectual stimulation.”
Stimulation isn’t high on the list with fans of this theater. “Horror films stand head and shoulders above the rest in popularity. The original ‘Dracula’ holds our box-office record; ‘Frankenstein’ provided us with the first turn-away crowd. We’ve also had big crowds for the original ‘King Kong’, ‘The Wolfman’ and the ‘Invisible Man’ movies.” Landa’s opinion notwithstanding, “Gone with the Wind” drew a large crowd. So do Alfred Hitchcock films. Landa likes to talk about Hitchcock. “He used to spend a year planning his films. He would plan them shot-by-shot, scene-by-scene. He was bored with them by the time filming began because he had it in his head already.”
Landa began constructing the theater in 1973. It took eight years to complete the 123-seat building in less than 2000 square feet. A couple of minutes before the projector rolls, Landa takes on the role of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, telling his audience what the film is about and maybe a little of its history. He then takes a minute-long stroll to the rear of the theater where he turns on the sound system and operates the l6mm and 35mm projectors. “At first we were not going to bother with concessions, but later we found they are a necessity. Some people wouldn’t come to see the greatest of films if there were no concessions.”
Building the theater is a monumental task Landa wishes he could repeat with some changes. “I probably overbuilt. It’s almost too hefty, too durable; it has a double layer of fire-resistant masonry walls. I would work on it six or seven days a week during summers. During the school year, I would work on weekends and at night. A few friends helped here and there, and of course I had to hire contractors for the electrical and plumbing work.” Inside the theater is a tiny lobby. The auditorium has a flat level floor with upholstered seats mounted on steel platforms. Landa does not subscribe to the theory that back theater seats have to be at a higher level than those in front. “If you position the screen and seats the right way, everyone has a good view. You just have to use a little common sense.” Landa purchased used projectors from the empty Granada Theater on Mitchell Street on Milwaukee’s south-side. He once had an eerie experience across the street from his theater at a one-time moviehouse called the Bay Theater “A friend of mine had started a graphic arts busi-ness in the theater building and he told me the old projectors were still upstairs. When we got up there it was like a time capsule. A full reel was still in the projector. The Sunday paper was spread out on the table. There were old cigarette butts in the ashtray. It was as if the theater owner called on a Sunday night and told his crew not to open the next day. The projection room was left untouched for more than 30 years”
“Even though it’s a hobby, it has to be profitable for us to continue,” Landa said. "Right now we are breaking even out of pocket. We are losing on salaries and depreciation. But whether I have a theater or not, I’ll always go to see the great films of the past” (Kenosha News, 1 Apr. 1984, Sun, Page 11.
“YOURS TO ENJOY - A beautiful new building designed in the sumptuous architecture of the Spanish Renaissance period; a spacious foyer brilliantly lighted and decorated; an interior gay with color and breathing an air of comfort and refinement - that is the Tivoli Theatre. The realization of a long dream - a de luxe metropolitan theatre right in the heart of Chicago’s Western Suburbs.
Planned and executed with the utmost care and thought for your comfort and enjoyment, it brings to your very door the latest sensation in Cinema entertainment - Sound and Talking Pictures. Not only will the feature pictures be the same as at the largest Chicago theatres - synchronized with music played by large Symphony Orchestras, and containing actual sound effects and in many cases Spoken Dialogue by your favorite screen stars, but the surrounding program will contain the latest Vitaphone and Movietone Singing and Talking Acts. These will bring you the greatest stars of vaudeville and musical comedy. Also the Movie-events of the world both visually and in sound. Pres. Elect Hoover, King George, of England, King Alfonso of Spain, Premier Mussolino (sic), and many others will speak to you from our screen. Amazing in its scope, it puts you in direct touch with events and people the world over.
We feel therefore that the Tivoli can rightfully be called ‘The Wonder Theatre of Suburban Chicago’."
(Advertisement: Downers Grove Reporter; Friday, December 21, 1928)
“DON’T EVER MARRY” was released in 1920.
Plan New Theater At Soldiers Grove
SOLDIERS GROVE, Wis. (Special) Some time early in July Soldiers Grove will have a new and modernistic theater with a seating capacity of 400. Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Larson have signed the contracts for a 40 by 100 foot building to be erected on the lot recently purchased next to the village pumping station. The Larsons, owners and operators of the Electric theater, have contracted for a quonset steel building, manufactured by the Great Lake Steel corporation, through the distributor, A. Grams and sons, La Crosse, and Lester Wiley, local representative. The fire-resistant building will be completely insulated and finished in a modern style carried out with glass bricks. A Milwaukee architect, who designed the new theater in Middleton, has drawn the plans and will be here this month to complete his work. June 15 is the date on which construction is expected to start. The foundations will be built before this date. (La Crosse Tribune, May 16, 1947)
Soldiers Grove Theater Reopened By Retired GI -
The doors will be open, the popcorn popping and the projectors whirring again at the Electric Theater in Soldiers Grove. A Bell Center couple, Helen and Ben Henderson, have announced that they will open the theater starting Friday, Oct. 4. The first movie will be the James Bond thriller “Live and Let Die.” Henderson, 44, is a retired Army sergeant first class. He spent 25 years in the service, including one year as a theater manager for the Army in Korea. Helen’s uncle managed a movie house in Kansas. The couple moved to Bell Center a year ago, making their home only a couple of miles from Petersburg, where Ben was born. The Hendersons plan to keep the theater open year-round if enough people attend the shows to keep the operation going. They plan showings at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, and matinees for younger audiences on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. One of their first goals, Henderson said, is to attract enough moviegoers so the theater can be open during the week. Admission to the movies will be 50 cents for children under 12 and $1.25 for adults. Ben is the son of Mrs. Jerusha Henderson of Bell Center. (Boscobel Dial - Sept. 26, 1974)
LOVES PARK MUSIC STORE DESTROYED BY EARLY MORNING FIRE
North 2nd Street was closed from Grand Avenue to Riverside Boulevard while firefighters battled the blaze.
The building is a total loss and will be demolished, Evans said.
The 3,500-square-foot structure was built in 1947 and is one of Loves Park’s oldest buildings, according to Evans. The building was originally a movie house called Park Theater.
CD Source sells used compact discs, records, stereo equipment, video games and gaming systems. The business relocated from Rockford to Loves Park about four years ago.
Calls and messages to the business were not returned Tuesday morning.