Varsity Center for the Arts

418 S. Illinois Avenue,
Carbondale, IL 62901

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Showing 51 - 61 of 61 comments

jackhicko on February 18, 2005 at 6:43 am

I became an adult in that theater with midnight shows of “Erotic Adventures of Zorro”, “Ribald Tales of Robin Hood”, and “Flesh Gordon”, all for $1.50 each.

melders on January 2, 2005 at 1:53 am

Paulench, you are correct. When the theater was built, it was segregated, with the “balcony” being for blacks, and the rest of the theater was resevered for whites.

paulench on December 28, 2004 at 3:29 pm

I remember going to the Varsity back in the sixties when I was a student at SIU. It was very convenient for students. We could walk there from campus. The theater was very old and had only a standard size screen of 1.85:1 .
Whenever a wide screen film was shown they lowered a black mask which draped across the top of the screen in order to create a 2.35:1 ratio screen – letterboxing in the sixties! So the wide screen films were actually smaller than the standard size images. I have a feeling a lot of minimal budget theaters of the era resorted to similar riggings in order to accommodate wide-screen movies.
There wasn’t really a balcony, just the back fourth of the seating resembled “stadium” seating – a steep climb up to the seats. I remember hearing that in the days of the 1950s and earlier that back section was for “colored only”, but that wasn’t the case when I was there.

rlucas on November 20, 2004 at 10:04 am

The “committee of local citizens” IS meeting and has been for more than a year. Unfortunately, in spite of this few big issues have been resolved. Kerasotes still owns the property and has expressed little interest in donating it to the community. The city and established local arts groups have taken a “hands-off” approach to the theater. Purchase and restoration of the property could be prohibitively expensive — depending on which restoration model the community follows. On the bright side, the local citizen’s group has found a number of local partners, some of whom will a) inhabit and produce content for the building after it is renovated and other who are b) assisting with technical expertise in producing a workable plan. There is still hope for the theater, but hope doesn’t keep mold from growing or stop the current owners from selling off theater assets (like the projection equipment).

melders on September 7, 2004 at 2:37 am

There is a commitee of local citizens that are going to hold a meeting soon on plans for the Varsity. They have several plans in the works, but can’t do anything till they can make a deal with Kerasotes. Kerasotes does not traditionally let movies be shown in there old theaters, so there is no telling what the Varsity will be used for.

melders on June 21, 2004 at 3:11 am

Yeah it was a shame. They promised the city they would not close the Varsity, then announced the closure a week before it closed. Was the picture of the red brick exterior, or the colored tile exterior?

melders on June 18, 2004 at 1:55 am

I have heard nothing about it for about a year. The building is still there, but no one can make a decision over it.

melders on May 11, 2004 at 3:05 am

Also, if you visit the Varsity today, you are not seeing the original exterior. The theater was originally covered in multicolored tiles. The tiles where removed around the time of the fire. The tilework extended beyond the theater itself, to the two buildings on either side of it. The round windows and the cornice detail are original, as are the marquee and tower.

melders on May 11, 2004 at 3:01 am

The fire at the Varsity occured in 1981, destroying what remained of the original decor. The main auditorium had already been divided in half, and they where addind a new auditorium. The people of the area are very upset, because Kerasotes promise that when the new theater opened, they would still keep the Varsity open. Then about a week before the new one opened, they annouced the Varsity would close.

melders on March 30, 2004 at 2:28 pm

The Varsity suffered from a fire in the mid-1980s, I believe when it was being turned into a triplex. Much of the interior was lost. The theater has a huge glass block tower above the marquee, on which Varsity is written in large letters. Haven’t been inside since I was young, so I can’t remeber much of the interior.

Kappie105 on April 2, 2003 at 8:44 pm

Sadly , Rumor is that It will be closing down in mid to late 2003 as they are opening a new theater near the mall