Theater Memories

Where have all the marquees gone?  During the 1930s and the 1940s every big and little town had its theatre.  Theatre marquees spelled out excitement and glamour.  They were symbolic of plush interiors, places where one could escape into a world of illusion for a few hours.  This was entertainment for the whole family.  Then along came television and more than three thousand theatres closed.  Those that closed were mostly small storefront houses with less than five hundred seating capacity.  Large theatres fought back with cinemascope and air conditioning.  In the next two decades freeways, malls, and the decline of downtowns closed thousands more.  Then the final blow came with the development of cable and VCR.

The drive-in theatres were popular in the 1950s and mid 1960s.  They started at twilight.  The whole family jumped into the car, no babysitter needed.  A night out in the privacy of your own car.  Teenagers renamed the drive-in theatre “the passion pit.”  The “car culture” started.  Attendance started to decline in the mid 1960s and early 1970s.  Color television and multiplex box theatres closed thousands of drive-in theatres.  Many drive-ins started to show XXX rated films in order to survive; however, few were successful.  

The movies used to reflect the spirit of America.


The Will Rogers Theatre – July 5, 1982

The Will Rogers Theatre was located at 5641 W. Belmont Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.  It was constructed in 1936 at the corner of Belmont and Central and demolished in 1987 to make way for a strip mall.  The theatre was named as a tribute to Will Rogers, vaudeville performer, actor, and humorist, who died in a small airplane crash in 1935.  Do you remember the ticket booth, the red carpet, and the atmospheric ceiling with twinkling stars?

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