Serving the historic Tivoli Theatre in Downers Grove, IL, the members of the Tivoli Stage Crew provide technical support for community and professional live stage shows.
© 2004 - 2018 Steven E. Margison, Downers Grove, IL     All rights reserved

The Cast:

All digital projection The only large single screen theatre in the Chicago area Home of “After Hours Film Society”, specialty movies with moderated discussions 2nd and 4th Monday each month Dolby 7.1 digital sound Hearing impaired and visually impaired assist systems for movies and live events West Suburban Living Magazine’s “Best of the West” for 2007-2017 (and counting!) Money back guarantee on movie admission if not satisfied in the first 30 minutes (a Classic Cinemas innovation!) Free refills on freshly popped popcorn and soda for all sizes (yet another Classic Cinemas innovation!) Restored stage and dressing rooms State of the art live event sound and lighting Selected in 2008 by the American Institute of Architects as one of the 150 best places to visit in Illinois

The Plot:

To one who loves film and its history an old theater exemplifies motion picture evolution. Through the doors of a picture house can be traced the cultural, economic and technological growth of movies. In Downers Grove, a western suburb of Chicago, stands a theater built in the era of the movie palace.  It supplies just such an example, providing an opportunity to witness the growth and evolution reaching back over 9 decades into movie history.  Today, the Classic Cinemas Tivoli Theatre is one of the best known landmarks in the area, and remains one of the most successful single screen theatres in the entire U.S.!   Its beautifully renovated French Renaissance interior, classic marquee, and state of the art digital projection and sound system makes going to The Tivoli Theatre an experience in itself!  The Chicago Tribune has cited the Tivoli as the "best movie theatre in the suburbs". On December 25, 1928, four thousand people were waiting in line outside of the Tivoli Theatre anticipating its 1:30PM premier performance. Children paid fifteen cents and adults paid forty cents (fifty cents on Sundays and holidays) for admission into the five hundred thousand dollar theatre. Designed by Chicago architects, Van Guten and Van Guten, the Tivoli Theatre was operated for its first 20 years by the Balaban and Katz theater chain, and was the second theatre in the U.S. designed to play "sound" movies. Dubbed the "wonder theatre of the western suburbs" the Tivoli boasted Vitaphone and Movietone capability. A typical showing in those early days would include a feature length talking picture, three Vitaphone talking and singing acts, and a Movietone news reel. The Tivoli is a large theatre built to originally seat 1392 persons. A 2 manual, 7 rank Wurlitzer pipe organ was installed as well as a stage for live entertainment. Another interesting feature of the Tivoli is the building in which it is housed. Opening at the same time as the theatre and all under the same roof were bowling and billiards, a hotel with dining room, barber shop and stores. The hotel, bowling alley, stores and barber shop remain to this day. The Tivoli succeeded in maintaining its popularity well into the 1960s. Remodeling occurred in the 1950s to "modernize", removing the gilded red and gold decor to cooler blue and green colors. The nine foot jeweled chandeliers were reduced in size and their "jewels" were removed and seating capacity was reduced to 1044 to provide more leg room.  In 2003 the seats were again replaced with larger and more comfy seats, along with dedicated places for handicap seating.  This further reduced the seating capacity to a little over 1000 including handicap spaces.  Also in 2003 the restrooms were remodeled so that both men's and women's rooms were on the same floor as the lobby and fully handicap accessible. The theatre's original ornate marquee was replaced in the 1950's to make room for a sleeker, more modern marquee. At some time in the 1970’s attendance began to decline because the theatre's ownership at that time allowed the theatre to deteriorate.  In 1978 the Tivoli closed its doors for the first time since 1928 shortly after Tivoli Enterprises, Inc. was formed to own the entire Tivoli complex. The theatre remained closed for repairs and cleaning for only a matter of weeks before it was reopened under the new ownership. The theme of sound runs through the Tivoli's history beginning with its inception as a "talkies" theatre and continuing today with continuing upgrades to its Dolby system from early models to the present Datasat AP200 Digital 7.1 channel system with Klipsch speakers, all designed by one of the country's foremost sound engineers, representing state-of-the-art motion picture multi-channel surround sound.  And, true to its history as a cutting edge theatre, the Tivoli now has the latest in "4K" Digital Projection for astounding picture clarity. The Tivoli Theatre is the flagship of a chain of theatres in the western Chicago suburbs and outlying areas. "Classic Cinemas" encompasses theatres from Oak Park in the east, to Freeport in the far west, to Kankakee in the far south, to Fox Lake in the far North. A number of the theatres are 1920's & 30's vintage theatres all lovingly renovated and/or restored, and meticulously cleaned and maintained. Tivoli Enterprises, Inc., was founded in 1978 with the purchase of the entire Tivoli building. Renovation and restoration started in 1980. In the 1950's a CinemaScope screen was added in front of the proscenium arch thus covering that beautiful architectural element and preventing use of the stage. Just one of the many projects completed in the 1980's was the moving of the screen back behind the proscenium arch to once again allow live entertainment capabilities. Also added in 1991 was a 3 manual, 10 rank Wurlitzer pipe organ that rises from the basement on a hydraulic lift. The original organ, also a Wurlitzer, was removed in 1932 and currently resides in a private collection in the midwest. The present organ came from the closed Indiana Theater of East Chicago Indiana and is owned and maintained by CATOE, the Chicago Area Theatre Organ Enthusiasts. The organ is played every Friday and Saturday night before movies, and for special performances by house organists David Rhodes and Tim Charlton. In 1989 efforts were made by local volunteers to restore the stage to full operation with existing equipment. The original 1928 Frank Adams Major rheostat lightboard was completely refurbished with enhancements made to facilitate the dual role of movie theatre and playhouse. The dressing rooms and green room in the theatre basement were restored, complete with makeup tables and excellent lighting. Additional sound facilities specifically oriented towards the needs of live theatre were added as well. In 2014 a major renovation of the stage eliminated the unused orchestra pit and extended the stage to the front of what used to be the pit. This nearly doubled the effective area of the stage and presents many new opportunitiues for live entertainment.  In 2017 the stage lighting began a continuing upgrade to modern LED and moving head fixtures, to enhance the visual experience for rock concerts and theatrical productions.  In 2018 all house lighting and architectural lighting was converted to LED with a new multi-channel dimming system. And the story continues…………

Our History

Tivoli Stage Crew
Theatre at opening, Dec. 1928
Theatre today, 2018
Theatre today, 2018
1924 WurliTzer 3 manual 10 rank pipe organ
Restored 1928 Lighting Control Panel
They don’t make ‘em like this anymore!