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The Glen Art Theater Matters.

The Glen (now officially known as The Glen Art Theater) is Glen Ellyn’s second downtown movie theater. The first was a one-story theatre on the East side of Main Street at 481 (Re-New) and 483 (Fresh Nails & Spa), which presented silent films in the early 1900s.

The Glen was constructed at 540 Crescent Boulevard over the summer of 1926, on the former site of the Nadelhoffer Livery Stable, owned by John & Christian. The building’s architect, William B. Betts, of Betts & Holcomb, from Chicago, designed the “Old English” style building for its Glen Ellyn owners: Charles W. Hadley; Alfred C. Hoy; And Roy V. Spading. Betts & Holcomb also designed movie theaters in neighboring suburbs, including: The Des Plaines Theater (1925) in Des Plaines; The Catlow Theater (1927) in Barrington; and The Deerpath Theater (1928) in Lake Forest. Of those theaters, The Glen and The Catlow are the only theaters still operating today.

The Glen Theater opened its doors to the public on January 30th, 1927, with its first film screening and dedication. The film was “The Nervous Wreck”, with silent screen era stars Harrison Ford and Phyllis Haver in the leads. A square marquee and vertical sign adorned the front facade of the building. When The original auditorium was designed to replicate a baronial hall of feudal days. It held 1,002 seats, with room to add 450 more. It featured a full-size pipe organ in the orchestra pit below the stage.

As movie-goers arrived in the theater, they were treated to a 30-minute concert by the organist. Attendees paid 50 cents for a chance to win prizes in giveaways and raffles. To encourage attendance on Thursday nights, dishes were given out, and many wives returned each week to fill out their dish collections. Before the main event began, which often included a double-feature, the public was treated to travelogues, coming attractions, newsreels, and cartoons.

At one time there was a working bowling alley in the basement of the building. You entered the doors to the right of the entrance to the theater. After descending the stairs you were greeted by four lanes with manual pinsetters. The maple wood lanes and equipment are still there to this day, though they are not in operational condition.

Hollywood has come calling on The Glen’s doorstep over the years: the most notable result being the movie “Lucas”, released in 1986. The film stars Corey Haim, Kerri Green, Charlie Sheen, and Winona Ryder in her screen debut. It also marked the screen debut of Tom Hodges, who grew up in Glen Ellyn and attended Glenbard West. "Lucas" was filmed inside as well as outside of The Glen (as well as at other Glen Ellyn locations), which also hosted the movie’s premier.


Research credit: Zak Wilson
Photo Credits: Zak Wilson, Kim Lloyd-Eichenauer, Barb Lemme
Historic exterior photo courtesy of Russ Ward


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