A candy-store-turned nickelodeon in Springfield was the starting point for what for a time was the sixth-largest theater chain in the U.S.
Brothers Gus (1873-1960) and Louis Kerasotes, both Greek immigrants, converted Gus’s confectionery at 214 S. Sixth St. into the Royal theater in 1909. The brothers opened the Savoy three years later, and the Strand, which offered the first organ accompaniment for silent films, went into business in 1921. Kerasotes bought the Gaiety theater in the 500 block of East Monroe Street in 1929 and renamed it the Senate. Sons George, John, Nicholas and Louis all joined the company in following years.
Kerasotes Theatres first expanded into small and middle-sized communities in Illinois, then moved into Missouri and Indiana. More aggressive growth in the 1970s made the chain the ninth-largest in the country by the early 1980s. A family split in 1985 — George established his own chain, GKC Theatres — slowed the parent firm’s expansion only slightly.
Kerasotes Theatres’ headquarters was at Sixth and Washington streets, in a building Gus had constructed in 1926, until 1999, when grandsons Tony and Dean moved the company’s base of operations to Chicago.
“We … needed to beef up our corporate structure, and the center of finance, legal, and the ability to attract qualified management professionals was in Chicago,” Dean Kerasotes told Film Journal, which published a lengthy profile of the Kerasotes chain for its centennial in 2009.
By its 100th anniversary, however, Kerasotes Showplace Theatres had less than a year of independence left. Movie giant AMC bought Kerasotes Showplace for an undisclosed amount in January 2010. At the time, Kerasotes had 96 theaters with 973 screens.
Tony Kerasotes said when the sale took place that a private equity firm, Providence Equity Partners, that had invested in the chain had decided to cash out its interest. The Kerasotes family was unable to find a replacement investor that would have allowed to family to continue to operate its theaters, he said. (George Kerasotes’ GKC chain also had been taken over by then; it was purchased by Carmike Cinemas Inc. in 2005.)
Although Kerasotes no longer is in the Springfield theater business, the family is still prominently remembered via the Gus and Flora Kerasotes YMCA branch, which opened in 2011 on West Iles Avenue.
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Here is some history of me and my family.
I’d like it up to date and corrected.
But I don’t know if I have that much life left in me.
I shall try and get it up to date.
Kindest regards, Michael Patrick Kerasotes
May 9, 2019 a Thursday Evening
;-)’s = a wink. !
I have been writing and looking for photos for you all for our family.
Would you like me to send some of the writing and some of the photos that you don’t seem to have on your page about our family – it is the story my grandmother Flora told me and my deceased brother about how the 3 girls had to hide under the back porch or veranda in Sparta when the Germans and the Turks hung the whole family many times … They hid under there to save their lives. All across the back of their hotel were their parents and grandparents and grand relatives because my great great great grandfather was head of the Army of Greece 🇬🇷 and the Germans and the Turks wanted him and my family wiped out of existence.
Flora, the youngest, Alice, the middle girl child and my great aunt Golfo each told me this. I was requested to go to Sparta again in 1962, by Golfo,The Eldest. She could only speak Greek and I had 12 years in school studying ancient,classical and modern Greek, so, we could communicate the different types of stories and things that happened because of who they were.
One was about when the Turks came to find the missing relatives, so, they had a cave in the mountains with an olive tree and other fruits and foods to get from nature and stay alive and hidden for 3 or months at a time – those 3 little girls.
Let me know,
Michael Patrick Kerasotes
17 May 2019
Dear People: Can you go to my Facebook Page the site is down below. Go into my Pictures and you will find all the other things I want you to have. I’ve Even Created a New Page but it isn’t finished yet. You can read on my “Michael” Page all the posts I have spent hours working on that tell the story of my family and how you’ve helped me landmark things and more history from the stuff Wikipedia took out that I took photographs of yesterday and entered on my Michael Patrick Kerasotes Page of Facebook and copy those for they are for you. They tell the story better about us that what the other Kerasotes wrote and I think it is more important that you know my father built up the business than my cousins did before they threw him out and stole all his theatres and claimed them for their own.
I don’t know how to get the photos to you so this is all I can think of.
Michael Patrick Kerasotes on Monday 5/20//2019
How we are related to the Exiled King of Greece: my grandmother Flora’s (the youngest) and great aunts Alice’s ( the next older) and Gulfo’s (the oldest) Staikos father was Head of the Armies of Greece. Through Him, the King told me at the Athens Hilton Hotel in August 1962, said, “That we were related and first cousins!” and his beautiful wife said, “We looked alike!” and he asked my name and I told him. He said, “That on my grandmother’s and great aunts side of the family that he and his grandmother were related making us making us first cousins. That made Philip II of Greece our Cousin and Elizabeth II of England our cousin by marriage!” and all he wanted was to try my little deceased brother’s bottle of ketchup that Mr. Hilton had flown in from the States (The United States of America) and I said even I was not allowed to use it but I would ask him for Your Majesty and see. I said,”Do Not Please come over to our table and meet us and I’ll tell my brother privately in English, and he said, “I spoke Greek Quite Well!” So I went and told Robbie that little story while my parents were discussing something privately and he let me take his bottle over to the King and Queen in Exile only if I brought it back. So I did. They were quite pleased and so was I and my brother was delighted!
Just another story to add to your history about our Family Mike and The Sangamon County Historical Society!
From your Friend who’s attended The Historical Society of Everett and gone to their monthly meeting this month (October 2019) and helped them quite a lot and got thanked for it.
Thank you so much.
Michael Patrick Kerasotes
3017 Lombard Avenue #603W
Everett, Washington 98201-5810 USA
Michael: Great story. Ketchup brings everybody together.
Thanks Mike. I thought you might like my grandmother’s story and mine.
October 28, 2022,
I haven’t written you in ages. I love the Springfield Review on Facebook. So many things and places you’ve landmarked and showed old photographs of all those places we could have had landmarked but are gone and you have the old beautiful photographs that we all love because they bring back those wonderfully warm emotions and feelings we had when we were there like the old Orpheum Theatre and The Georgian Restaurant in Springfield, Illinois.
Thank you so very much for that.
Everett, WA 98201 USA
:-) ‘s = Smiles