Photo by Dave McGinnis

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The idea for the theatre was first projected and a decision reached to build the new structure in December of 1920 by E. J. Boorde. The ground was broken in April 1921 at the corner of Main Street and Third Street to begin the project. By November 1921, a roof was in place, housing the new structure. Decorators complete the inside work in Febrary,1922, and on March 6, 1922, the Lorraine Theatre opened its doors with the movie “The Great Moment” starring Gloria Swanson.

History of the Lorraine Theatre

The theater’s construction cost was close to $100,000 and boasted the “finest ventilation, luxuriousness of fittings and general appearance of any theatre in this section of the state ... conforming to state safety laws and could be emptied at a very few minutes warning.”

The Lorraine was remodeled in early March of 1937 into an art deco style theater by Axel J. Claesson, a theater designer from Chicago. He painted the portrait of Hoopeston hanging behind the concession as a gift to the city and the theater.  It should be noted that in 1930, the remodel of the Lorraine included a Sound System. Before this, the Lorraine only showed silent movies and had a pipe organ for music accompaniment. Also, bathrooms were added in the remodel. Before this, patrons had to use the gas station. The second grand opening was in October 1937.

When the Lorraine first opened, it did not have a balcony. The original design had stadium seating. The main floor ramped up to what is now the balcony.  Patrons  entered the auditorium from the center where the snack bar and painting are now.

You would enter a tunnel type entry like you would find in a stadium.  Once inside the auditorium, you could continue down to the seats or turn to your left or right and go up as the rows ramped up to the back wall.

In 1953, new projectors and stereo sound system were installed. Also a new, wider Cinemascope type Screen for the new Cinemascope pictures that were being released.   The first Cinemascope picture to be shown was THE ROBE.

In 1992 a new projector with a more modern xenon type lamp was installed with a platter system. Along with this upgrade was a digital surround sound system and speakers.  The Lorraine was able to reproduce any of the new digital formats.  A new screen was also installed a this time. The 92-year-old Lorraine has continuously been Hoopeston’s theater until it closed in April 2012.

-Thank you to Bob Meza and Nora Gholson for historical information.

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