Virginia Theatre

203 W. Park Avenue,
Champaign, IL 61820

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Showing 1 - 25 of 42 comments

DavidZornig on May 20, 2024 at 6:05 pm

Closing for technical improvements in January 2025, scheduled to re-open April 2025.

local157 on February 18, 2024 at 6:07 pm

In 2012, Buzard Pipe Organ builders completed renovations and rebuilding of the 1921/1924 Wurlitzer Theater Organ, one of a precious few instruments still found in its original home. Full details can be found at:

Coate on April 15, 2016 at 12:49 am

Here is a clickable version of the EbertFest link that was posted in the previous comment.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 14, 2016 at 9:15 pm

EbertFest 18 now underway…

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on June 25, 2014 at 2:56 am

From what I read in the comments marquee replacement went against local and national opinion, and I personally don’t think it is an improvement. It’s the Windows 8 style of management: 1) Give Windows 8 to focus groups. 2) Focus groups all say they hate it but Windows 8 is released anyway. 3) Windows 8 bombs in the marketplace. But they don’t fix the consumer complaints with an update and continue to try to force it on people as is. This kind of thing always baffles me, especially in the case of the Virginia where it involves a taxpayer-funded organization. In Microsoft’s case they will pay the price with continued poor sales if they don’t give the people what they want. I’m not sure how it shakes out in Champaign, except possibly at the election booth.

Mike on May 4, 2013 at 9:50 am

Thanks. Don’t know why my direct links don’t work though…

Mike on May 3, 2013 at 10:50 am

The Virginia Theatre restoration…

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on July 25, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Article from 7/19/12

CHAMPAIGN — It’s believed that the seats in the Virginia Theatre have been playing an integral role to performances and movies in downtown Champaign since about 1939.

And while the seats will be replaced as a part of the ongoing renovation at the theater (it’s closed until spring of next year), the seats will live on, both through residents who purchase them and when they’re refurbished and resold.

The Champaign Park District is hosting a sale of about 100 seats from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday in front of the building. Seats will sell for $50 each. Park district spokeswoman Laura Auteberry said it’s a cash-and-carry sale, so make sure you have a way to take your seats home.

She said residents have expressed interest in owning a piece of local history.

“It’s all being done as a fundraiser for the Virginia Theatre,” Auteberry said. “All of the money is going right back into the restoration effort.”

The rest of the seats will be salvaged and picked up by the Discount Seating Co., based in Jackson, Tenn.

Owner Austin Fongers said he’ll pick up about 1,300 seats in Champaign. While he doesn’t yet have a buyer for them, he plans to restore them to have them ready for sale when someone needs them. It’s possible they could be sold as a lot, or some could be sent to little theaters around the country.

“It’s a good, old, quality chair,” Fongers said of the seats from the Virginia.

Jim Lopez, vice president and partner at Broeren Russo, which is the project’s general contractor, said giving the seats to Fongers' company keeps them out of the landfill and provides an immediate solution for what to do with them.

“We really didn’t want to throw them away if we could do something else with them,” Lopez said, calling it a “win-win.”

Lopez said the restoration will include sandblasting the chairs' metal backs and repainting them, stripping the existing foam and cloth and adding new seats.

Fongers said his company picks up seats all over the country and has been in business for 10 years. It also specializes in restoring seats on-site.

Part of the Virginia’s renovation will be the installation of new seats. Although the park district hasn’t yet finalized exactly what they’ll look like, Auteberry said, they will look historically accurate.

The park district is working with architects Westlake Reed Leskosky, which specialize in theater restoration. She said many times when people are restoring theaters, they put in new seats.

“Eventually, you either have to refurbish them or put new seats in,” she said.

The new seats, like the entire remodel, will be chosen “with a strong effort to maintain historical integrity,” Auteberry said.

She believes they’ll have a rich color palette, perhaps with deep red or maroon, blacks and golds, she said.

“People jump to the conclusion that we’re making everything new and modern,” Auteberry said. “While codes and materials have changed (since the theater was built), we’ve always been very mindful of maintaining the historic integrity of the building.”

However, when the theater reopens, you can expect to be comfortable in the new seats.

“They definitely will be more comfortable just because they haven’t had people sitting in them for the last 60-some years,” she said.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on May 15, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Closed until 2013 for a major restoration. on September 1, 2011 at 6:31 pm

The new, replica marquee. I very much prefer the vintage Art Deco sign that they removed recently.
seymourcox on May 6, 2011 at 3:31 pm

The neon marquee was condemned and removed last Spring. City engineered felt it could no longer hold up under another heavy snow. This video tells the Virginia Theatre history with vintage photos;
View link

fergusmacivor on November 25, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Does anyone know when the “RKO Virginia” marquee was replaced by the [plain] “Virginia” marquee. The RKO-V marquee looks like it has neon, at least the upper part. Info, anyone?

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on November 19, 2010 at 7:00 am

Photo of workers removing marquee.

View link

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on November 17, 2010 at 1:00 pm

I heard the local news is reporting that the old marquee is down and the one is going up. Any additional info and photos is appreciated.

spectrum on November 12, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Now the message says that both the web page and the theatre itself are under renovation. The webpage has a link to the Chicago park’s District calendar which indicates the next event at the Virginia will be at the end of December 2010, so it looks like this renovation will be a fairly quick one.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on November 7, 2010 at 8:44 am

Any photos of the work-in-progress of replacing the current marquee?

galechicago on June 15, 2010 at 4:29 am

Last summer I visited Champaign, spent a lot of time photographing the Virginia marquee.
Here is my set of photos from May 2009:
View link

armyarch on June 11, 2010 at 1:09 pm

On Wednesday June 9, 2010, the Champaign Park District voted to remove the RKO neon marquee from the 1940s and construct a rectangular marquee with neon (similar to the left hand drawing in the link above). This decision went against public opinion and the opinion of historic preservation professionals in Champaign, in Illinois, and at the national level.
View link

chapcan on April 20, 2010 at 11:18 pm

The Empire Strikes Back and Poltergeist with Mike and Hank

armyarch on March 16, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Hopefully the Champaign Park District will actually come to their senses and restore the existing marquee instead of persuing this idea of false restoration. It’s entirely conceivable that the existing marquee dates back to 1929 when RKO purchased the theater and wired it for sound. No one knows. There’s only one photograph of the original marquee and so far the oldest photograph of the existing marquee dates to 1947.
View link

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on March 10, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Press release 3/10/10:

Many of you have probably heard the recent buzz surrounding the upcoming construction project for the Virginia Theatre, in particular the replacement of the marquee. We thought it would be helpful to provide you with the facts.

One of our top priorities for the historic Virginia Theatre is to restore it, as best as possible, to its original glory of the 1920’s when it first opened. The current marquee is not original to the building, in fact it was not placed on the building until the 1950’s and does not fit with the original style and design of the theatre. If you look closely you’ll notice that the current marquee blocks much of the beautiful Italian Renaissance Revival style detail of the upper floors of the building, which the original style did not.

The new marquee will NOT have an LED reader board. Like the original, the letters on the new marquee will still have to be hand placed to promote upcoming shows and it will visually look more like that of the original, but the back lighting and undercarriage lighting will be greener in overall energy efficiency. The current marquee is not energy efficient, is no longer operating as it should and would be costly to repair. In addition, replacement of the marquee to one more fitting of the original, has been a component of the overall restoration master plan since that plan was adopted in 2000.

The architectural firm of Westlake Reed and Leskosky, known for their historic restoration projects including historical theatres, has designed the next phase of the restoration and bids are currently being accepted for this project which, along with the marquee, includes replacement of the outer and inner doors, renovation of the entire lobby from floor to ceiling, repairing the lost plaster, the concession stand as well as replacement of the west storefront windows, preserving the copper trim as was done two years ago in the east lobby. The Champaign Park District will consider the result of the bids in April. Construction is scheduled to begin in June and continue through the fall.

The Virginia Theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in October of 2003 as a property of local (not national) significance. According to National Register personnel and the National Register website, National Register listing places no restrictions on the use or renovation of the property as long as there are no federal monies attached to the property, which for the Virginia, there are not.

For more information, please contact Bobbie Herakovich at 819-3819 or stop by the Bresnan Meeting Center at 706 Kenwood in Champaign to review the plans.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on March 10, 2010 at 3:02 pm

The CPD press release said the marquee was designed by Westlake Reed and Leskowsky and that the plans may be viewed at the CPD office.