Category Archives: Theaters

Palace Theatre

When the Palace Theatre opened at 1836 S. 15th St. in 1915, the “very pretty little house” became a venue where downtown movies were brought to Springfield’s southeast side. Despite its grand name, the theater was very small– about the … Continue reading

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Chatterton Opera House roof collapse, 1887

There was no audience inside when the roof of the Chatterton Opera House collapsed on Aug. 9, 1887. “The blue sky is now the only covering that shelters the auditorium of the once beautiful interior,” the Illinois State Journal reported. … Continue reading

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The Majestic theatre, 1907-35

“Springfield society assembled en masse on the evening of May 23, 1907, when the Majestic Theatre opened its doors for the first time”, the Illinois State Register reported in 1935. By then, the Majestic, 415-21 S. Fifth St., was no … Continue reading

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W.W. Watts, theater impresario

William Walter “W.W.” Watts flopped the first time he opened a theater in Springfield. But his stepson-in-law persuaded Watts to try again, saying there was “big money in 5-cent picture shows.” The younger man was right. Watts (1868-1937), an Ohio … Continue reading

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Pekin Theatre

In segregated Springfield, the Pekin Theatre was the only movie house that not only catered specifically to African-Americans, but was managed by African-Americans as well. The Pekin was at 811-15 E. Washington St. The block, the site of both Black- … Continue reading

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Roxy theater

“One of the city’s oldest, largest and most reliable babysitters, the Roxy Theater, will fall to the state of Illinois headache ball.” So wrote State-Journal Register critic Paul Povse in September 1978. Indeed, the demise of the Roxy was a … Continue reading

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Theater bombings, 1931-32

Unhappy theater workers were the immediate suspects in 1931, when bombs – both explosives and stink bombs – went off in three local cinemas. A few months later, another bomb wrecked the home of a theater manager. Members of Springfield … Continue reading

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‘Big Tent Theatre’ photographs

These photos apparently are publicity stills produced when the Depression-era Federal Theatre Project played a season of live, professional theater in a tent at West Grand Avenue (today’s MacArthur Boulevard) and Outer Park Drive in 1936. The venue was known … Continue reading

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‘The Big Tent Theatre’, 1936

The Big Tent Theatre, one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Depression-relief programs, played to packed houses at West Grand Avenue (today’s MacArthur Boulevard) and Outer Park Drive in 1936. The Big Tent was formally part of the Federal Theatre Project, which … Continue reading

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Johnny Connors (boxer, saloon-keeper)

Johnny Connors – boxer, saloon-keeper and sportsman – was small in stature, but he played an outsize role in Springfield for nearly 80 years. Connors (1867-1966) was born John O’Connor in Ireland, but boxed as Johnny Connors. He never legally changed … Continue reading

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