Renovated Des Plaines Theatre to reopen Nov. 11 [Des Plaines, IL]

Daily Herald

The giant screen at the 86-year-old Des Plaines Theatre in downtown will come alive next month after being dark for nearly two years.

Workers are putting finishing touches on a roughly $250,000 renovation and restoration project. An invitation-only grand reopening ceremony will be held 8 p.m. Nov. 11 to showcase the historic building at 1476 Miner St.

The theater — originally built as a vaudeville house in 1925 for the Polka Brothers circuit and once a tour stop for “America’s Favorite Singing Cowboy” Gene Autry — will once again feature live performances and theater productions.

It also will resume showing Bollywood musicals and other independent foreign films, and it may show Hollywood movies, and host film festivals. …

The Nov. 11 grand opening will include entertainment by Chicago’s Shout Section Big Band featured on “WGN Morning News.” Hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and specialty 1920s-era drinks will be served.

As seating is limited, a small number of tickets are available with a $50 donation toward the theater restoration project. For details, visit …

The original Spanish Renaissance-style auditorium had 1,018 seats in 1925, with a large stage and orchestra pit. Initially, the restored theater will seat roughly 700 patrons.

Bhagwakar hopes to eventually increase seating to accommodate 950 people by putting seats in the orchestra pit.

Bhagwakar said the renovation work took longer than anticipated because of necessary safety upgrades. A new fire alarm system, and new lighting and sound systems have been installed.

“The whole renovation process has turned out to be a little more extensive than originally planned,” Bhagwakar said. “It took too long and people thought that it’s never going to happen.” …

As part of the renovation, workers took down a 1987 wall that had divided the theater and split its large screen. The theater’s concession area and counters are being refurbished and will offer a sampling of Indian snacks and other foods in addition to standard theater fare, Bhagwakar said.

The renovation uncovered some hidden treasures as workers peeled back the layers of plaster and paint to discover remnants of a bygone era.

They found terra cotta tiles behind sheet rock walls in the theater lobby. They also found signatures of vaudeville performers on the walls of a backstage dressing room, ornate wall designs, painted detail on the ceiling and intricate plaster work on huge connecting beams once hidden by a drop ceiling.

The theater’s Art Deco-style exterior with its multicolored terra cotta facade has been restored. Master painters have restored the original decorative plaster work on the porticos around doorways and stage in four-color detail.

A second phase of work will involve a new seating layout, heating and ventilation system upgrades, and adding a new sprinkler system for the stage, which likely will be done in about a year, Bhagwakar said. …

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