When I was growing up in Peoria there were three movie theaters downtown, The Rialto, The Palace and The Madison Theater. The Rialto was torn down in the late ‘70’s to make way for the Peoria Civic Center. The Palace Theater closed in 1980 and Peoria’s Twin Towers now stands in that location after that theater was torn down. The Madison Theater is the only classic Peoria movie theater still standing.
It’s been out of operation since 2002 after it was transformed from a movie theater to a concert hall. From 1996 to 2002 musical artists played shows there and some of the concerts starred diverse acts such as: Ray Charles, The Smashing Pumpkins, REO Speedwagon, The Elvis Brothers, Fiona Apple, Todd Rundgren, Govt' Mule, and Mudvayne.
I went and took some photos of the building as it stands today, but first let’s take a look back at The Madison Theater via some pictures I found online.
Showtimes From Years Gone By
The top photo is from 1925 and the movie playing then was Lon Chaney starring in “The Tower of LIes.” In 1974 the John Wayne movie, “McQ” was the feature film being shown. The last photo shows the Madison getting ready for The Empire to strike back in 1980. (Photos courtesy of the Madison Theatre Peoria facecrack page.)
Inside The Madison Theater
I went and took some photos of The Madison Theater yesterday. There’s a mural on the side of the building and I have no idea who painted it. I tried to find information online, but couldn’t find anything on this jazzy mural.
Here’s a shot from the corner of the street.
The original gold-leaf signage is still intact on the front of the building.
A full frontal photo from across the street. The Madison Theater has been standing here since it opened in 1920 as a silent movie theater. I really wish someone would refurbish the place and re-open it. It’s such a waste of a classic and historical building.
As you can see it’s kind of flimsily locked up and I tried to get a shot through a hole in the door, but it just turned out black. I looked through the mail chute and was kind of creeped out and quickly shut it and walked away.
Two ornamental cement angels decorate the side of the building.
As I was getting ready to leave, I noticed this bumper sticker for the band, Taxi War Dance. I think we did an article about them in my old magazine, People of Peoria. The website listed on the sticker isn’t working, but I found their page on facecrack. I’m guessing they played here in the concert era when the Madison was living its second life as a concert hall. Let’s hope for a third act for this historical Peoria theater. We’ll see you all tomorrow!
502 Main Street
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