Peoria used to have a trio of classic and elegant movie theatres downtown. They were: The Rialto, The Palace and The Madison Theatre. Sadly The Rialto and The Palace have been torn down and The Madison Theatre has been shuttered for years. Luckily we still have the Apollo Theatre but there’s a vintage theatre not far from Peoria that maybe you don’t even know about. That would be The Chillicothe Town Theatre. If you’ve never seen this beautiful movie theatre, keep scrolling and we’ll skip the Coming Attractions and get right to the main feature!
Here it is, The Chillicothe Town Theatre! The theatre started out as an opera house in 1920 and seven years later it was converted to a movie theatre.
After a fire in 1949, the theatre was completely remodeled and the Streamline Moderne style front of the theatre was constructed and it’s still intact today! I love that they haven’t remodeled anything on the outside and it remains the same over 68 years later! There’s a painting of the theatre on display inside the ticket booth, very cool! Okay, let’s go inside and take a look at the lobby.
The lobby has been remodeled but it still maintains the old-school charm and ambiance. And the theatre shows first-run movies! The ticket prices are really inexpensive here, adult tickets are six bucks and children’s, students and senior citizen’s pay just five dollars per ticket!
Now it’s time to introduce you to our tour guide for today, this is Karyn Terpstra who’s the Public Relations volunteer for the theatre. She explained to me that the theatre is now owned by the Chillicothe Optimist Club and all profits support local charities. What’s really nice is that you can pick the charity off of the list that Karyn is standing next to and by writing the number on your ticket and placing it in the jar, your charity of choice gets the donation from your ticket! Over the last seven years over $85,000 dollars have been donated to local charities and organizations! You can read more about it by clicking here.
This is Carolyn Horton who recently moved back to the area and I found out that she and her family has been involved with The Chillicothe Town Theatre for decades! So I invited her to join us on this tour and now we’re all complete and we’ll continue to look around in here!
There’s the ticket desk and the concession stand. As you can see there’s soft drinks and popcorn in the back and lots of candy selections to be had on top of the counter and on the inside. And of course you’ve got your obligatory intermission-style dancing soda pop bottle and popcorn box on the wall!
Karyn pointed out that if you look above, there’s a local ceiling of fame up there! Let’s take a closer look!
These are all people from Chillicothe who have achieved a degree of fame. If you’re not familiar with them, click on the name to see their personal claim to fame! From the top we have: Josh Taylor, Lance LeGault, Barbara Kingsley, Aaron Schneider and last but not least, William Johnston McCulley. I’m wondering where the pictures of Greg Owens and Jeff Putnam are?
Speaking of famous people from Chillicothe, Wayne Nelson’s picture should definitely be up on that ceiling of fame. Wayne is a member of the Little River Band and his wife Rhonda is a well-known author. The two of them will be appearing here at The Chillicothe Town Theatre for a one night event that’s happening on Friday, December 15th. The show features an acoustic performance with Wayne joined by his Little River bandmates, Greg Hind and Chris Marion. Rhonda Nelson will be talking about life on the road and signing copies of her new book, “A Different Life.” Tickets are just twenty dollars and you can purchase them by clicking here.
There’s two theatres in here and let’s take a look at them. This is the one off to the left and as you can see it’s nice and spacious in here!
The other theatre is just down this hallway. While the outside of the theatre is vintage, inside it’s state-of-the-art, with comfortable seating. Very nice!
Karyn took us up to the projection room and showed us where they show the movies from. This brought back a lot of memories for Carolyn because she used to come up here years ago when her grandpa managed the theatre.
There’s movie memorabilia up here including movie posters and framed autographed photos of movie stars. The last one is Chillicothe native Josh Taylor who we also saw up on the ceiling of fame and that brings us full circle and it’s the end of the tour. Well, not totally, I liked the look of the theatre in the daylight, but I bet it’s really spectacular at night when it’s all lit up, so...
I came back at night and it sure is spectacular...and very sparkly!
I’m so glad this beautiful theatre is still around to light up 2nd Street in Chillicothe! Thanks to Karyn for the tour and to Carolyn for joining us, it was a lot of fun. We’ll see you all tomorrow!
1029 N. 2nd Street
Bonus: Movie Theatre Memories By Carolyn Horton
As I mentioned in the post, Carolyn kind of grew up in the Chillicothe Town Theatre and she was nice enough to write up some memories she has of the movie theatre and share some photos of her grandpa and the theatre from back in the ‘60’s.
My grandfather's name was James Savage. He began managing the Chillicothe Town Theatre in 1966 and he was the manager for twelve years before he left in 1978.
In 1966 when my grandpa started managing the theatre, Keosotas Theatre owned it. There were three to four managers prior to him, but they didn't work out. Prior to grandpa taking over as manager, parents would drop their children off in the morning to watch the movies and not come back until later in the evening. My aunt told me there were times they would need to call the parents to come pick up their children. Some had even fallen asleep in the theatre after being there all day. It was pretty much being treated as a babysitter center! Grandpa didn't allow that. He cleaned up the theatre and turned it into a nice family town theatre. He was strict. Most people were scared of him, his bark was loud but down deep, he was a soft man.
My grandfather was still working at Caterpillar when he started at the theatre in 1966. Then in 1974, he retired from CAT and he and my Grandma moved to Missouri. They had family down there. Grandma loved Missouri. But after two years, grandpa was ready to come back. Grandpa and grandma had two girls, their names today are Valerie Lord and Bonnie Horton. While my grandparents were in Missouri, my Uncle Larry managed the theatre to help keep it in the family.
My aunt Val worked at the theatre when she was in high school. The theatre had a room upstairs by the production room, called the “Quiet Room.” It was closed off, and had a couch that sat in front of this big window so you could see the movies. Mothers would take their babies or other children up there where it was quiet and that way they wouldn't disturb the rest of the audience. Aunt Val told me she has memories of being up in the room with her friends and playing and doing stuff they weren't suppose to do, like using a rubber band to launch pieces of popcorn into the crowd!
The Town Theatre has a lot of memories for me as well. I was about seven-years-old when I started going to the theatre with grandpa. He would let me work behind the concession stand sometimes and serve popcorn. Grandpa taught me how to thread the movies from the big reels. Back then, movies were on big reels and you threaded them through a big projection machine.
One thing I liked to do was sweep the floors after the movies. I loved doing that because I found change that people had dropped under the seats and I felt like I was rich! I also loved it when grandpa would bring home popcorn to grandma and I after he was done at the theatre.
Those are wonderful memories and I’m thrilled the Chillicothe Town Theatre is still standing and in business today!