Sterling Theater

402 Locust Street,
Sterling, IL 61081

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Related Websites

Sterling Theaters (Official)

Additional Info

Operated by: Sterling Theaters, Inc.

Previously operated by: 21st Century Cinemas, Classic Cinemas

Architects: John R. McLane

Functions: Movies (First Run)

Styles: Streamline Moderne

Previous Names: Sterling Cinemas

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 815.632.3708

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Sterling Theater

Originally built in 1924 for vaudeville and stage acts (original architect unknown), this 1,200 seat theater was partially destroyed by fire on July 9, 1943. It was rebuilt in an Art Moderne style designed by architect John R. McLane and opened on September 28 1944 with 1,020 seats. One of the features of the rebuilt Sterling Theater was a lighted tower, which became a beacon for entertainment in downtown Sterling.

It was later twinned and was taken over by Classic cinemas in July 1997. The lighted tower was rebuilt and re-lit by Classic Cinemas during a 2000 renovation.

From October 2003 until 2004, the theater was part of the Sensible Cinemas chain, but since July 2004, it was under new independent ownership of 21st Cinemas, as a discount house. The Sterling Theater also featured special free shows as well as an independent film series.

The Sterling Theater was closed in 2008. It re-opened in July 2013 as a brew & view movie theatre.

Contributed by Coral Carlson, Roger Anthony

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

Roger Katz
Roger Katz on February 6, 2004 at 12:58 pm

It is now known as the Sterling Cinemas and operated as a discount theatre by the Sensible Cinemas chain with a website

tmesser on April 11, 2007 at 12:30 pm

This theater is now operated by 21st Century Cinemas, the same company operating the nearby Plaza 4 in Dixon. The site layout looks very similar to the Sensible Cinemas site, which makes me think the companies may be related. The site linked above is now gone.

ms2728 on May 6, 2008 at 7:16 am

Is this theater for sale?

bloosoda on December 19, 2008 at 10:15 am

Yes, this stylish venue IS for sale! Check out:

I will post a contact number for the owners, shortly!

bloosoda on December 29, 2008 at 4:32 pm

I understand this theatre has been successfully operated as a discount house but was closed in 2008 due to some management matters as well as some air conditioning problems. Those have been worked on and the owners plan to reopen the Sterling in early 2009. In the meantime, they are still offering the theatre FOR SALE. Contact Mark at 217-549-3000

JackCoursey on January 2, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Photo from December, 2010 of the former Sterling Theatre. Looks to be intact with what appears to be a For Lease sign in its window.

Andy69 on May 20, 2013 at 7:27 pm

From, April 19th, 2013:

“STERLING – It’s official: The Sterling Theater will open July 3, its new operator said.

Skip Huston, who owns The Theater Management Group, said Thursday that he plans to open the brew and view – which means wine and beer with your movie, if you like – with “a brand new, exclusive film. A big, big movie for the summer.”

Huston had hoped to open in May, as it says on the theater marquee, but much work has yet to be done."

Trolleyguy on May 20, 2016 at 7:36 am


Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 14, 2022 at 5:51 pm

The earliest mention of the Sterling Theatre I’ve found in the trade journals is this item from the September 1, 1923 issue of Moving Picture World:

“STERLING, ILL—Sterling Theatre Corporation, care Grand Theatre, contemplates erecting brick moving picture theatre, 100 by 135 feet, at Fourth and Locust streets.”
Another notice appears in the October 20 issue of the same publication:
“George Greenough, owner of the Grand Theatre at Sterling, Ill., plans to build a new house in that city to play both pictures and legitimate shows. It is expected that the house and furnishings will cost at least $200,000 and seat almost a thousand people.”
The November 3 issue of Motion Picture News also noted the project:
“A new picture theatre, to represent an investment of nearly $200,000, will be erected at Sterling, Ill., this winter, by G. Geenough [sic]. The policy will be pictures and the theatre will be strictly modern in every respect. Work will be started at an early date.”

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