Nov. 12 marks the 100th anniversary of a movie theater in downtown Champaign. Originally called The Park, it is now known as The Art Theater Co-Op. In honor of this centennial, there is a new book celebrating its history.
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A group of Hoopeston residents hopes to give the community a sense of how the old downtown movie theater once operated.
The Lorraine Theatre opened its doors in 1922, but closed its doors in March of 2012, suffering the fate of many single auditorium small-town movie houses.
An unnamed buyer recently bought it, and the Lorraine 2, an old store location that was converted in recent years to show movies.
The buyer expects to do some maintenance – then turn both of them over to the Save The Lorraine Foundation in the next few weeks.
Group president and lifelong Hoopeston resident Jim Richards admitted there’s more to be done, namely, raise about $200,000 for maintenance and restoring the Art Deco design.
His memories included a day when vaudeville acts came to town.
"They didn’t have dressing rooms, so what they did, is basically put a ladder – and there’s two tiers on each side, and they went up an built little platforms," he said. "The vaudeville people would walk up the ladder on the side of the thing, go over to the space that they had - which was elevated, above the stage, they would dress in their costumes and change costumes - and walk down and present their program on the stage.”
Richards said his group is open-minded, and needs to rent out the theater for other uses to make ends meet, including theater acts and weddings.
The Save The Lorraine Foundation holds its first fundraiser Sunday, a spaghetti dinner at the Hoopeston’s Fast Lanes Bowling Alley from 12 to 3 p.m.
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