Ritz Theatre

134 S. Veto Street,
Chenoa, IL 61726

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Ritz Theatre, Chenoa, IL

Built on the site of the Rex Theatre, the Ritz Theatre was opened on February 8, 1938. It was damaged by fire on December 19, 1940. It was rebuilt and reopened in March 1941.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

Bruce C.
Bruce C. on June 1, 2011 at 5:30 pm

The Ritz Theatre is next door to the Finish Line Sports Bar (134 S. Veto Street) and is on the corner of Veto and East Owsley Street. It currently looks vacant.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 27, 2014 at 2:22 pm

The Ritz Theatre at Chenoa, Illinois, was listed as a new theater in the May 21, 1936, issue of The Film Daily. The only earlier reference to a specific theater in Chenoa I’ve found in the trade journals is an item in the August 5, 1916, issue of The Moving Picture World saying that “Charles E. Hawkins of Mahornet is remodeling the Rex theater, which he recently purchased from Arch C. Howard.”

The most complete history of movie theaters in Chenoa is from a Centennial history published in 1954, but it’s wording is rather ambiguous. It never explicitly states that the Lyceum and the Ritz were one and the same, but doesn’t say they weren’t. It does say that the Rex was on the site of the Ritz:


“The first motion picture theatre (silent pictures) in Chenoa, known as the Rex, was owned and operated by Dexter and Clagget of Lexington about 1909, at the present location of the Ritz Theatre. Among others who later owned or operated the theatre were C. D. Caster, A. M. Blake, Richardson and Broadwell, Mr. Hawkins and Arch Swan.

“In August, 1919 the Rex was purchased and operated by John Pittman, now of Fairbury, who continued operation with the assistance of Lewis (Tubby) Claudon, until 1925. Mr. Claudon was closely connected with the motion picture industry here for many years. The first multi-reel picture shown here was ‘The Christian.’

“Later motion pictures were also shown at the Lyceum for many years, Les Twomey operating the machine.

“Music and entertainment was furnished at these shows by numerous local young people, among whom were Bernadine Twomey Elson, Clara Power Green, Myrtle Bower Winter and Georgia Green Power.

“On Feb. 8, 1938 under management of Elmer Larsen, the Ritz Theatre, in the present location was opened, and we might add it was 22 degrees below on that day. In 1944 the building was remodeled as it is now and was the first to operate a "talking picture” movie theatre in Chenoa. The Ritz burned on Dec. 19, 1940 and re-opened in March, 1941, still under management of Elmer Larsen.

“Mr. Tom Whetzell of Urbana, purchased the Ritz in May, 1951, which continues operations with Paul Hallbeck as manager and Ray Moore, machine operator.”

In this Bing Maps bird’s eye view, the Ritz Theatre building can be seen on the west side of South Veto Street just north of East Owsley Street.

JonPutnam on March 18, 2015 at 12:00 pm

In March 1977, the Ritz briefly caused a stir when it began showing X-rated movies. Business was better than it had been in years, but many of the residents were predictably unhappy, and the theater was even the target of an attempted firebombing within days of the new policy. Finally, a local businessman took matters into his own hands by purchasing the theater (in December of that year) and eliminating the X-rated movies.

Bruce C.
Bruce C. on June 5, 2021 at 3:54 pm

The Ritz Theatre has been demolished. Just uploaded a before/after photo from 2009 and 2021. The top image shows the theater sitting vacant along with The Finish Line Sports Bar to its right. The bottom image shows that The Finish Line has replaced the Ritz with a new structure.

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