Will Rogers Theatre

705-715 Monroe Avenue,
Charleston, IL 61920

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Showing 25 comments

SethG on June 26, 2023 at 8:28 am

Some historic views of the theater can be found at: https://dnrhistoric.illinois.gov/preserve/hargis.html

The navigation is extremely cumbersome, but you need to ‘Enter Hargis’, move the map to Charleston (it always drops you on Sprinfield, so go east and a bit south), and click on one of the purple dots downtown. The other one is the courthouse.

SethG on June 26, 2023 at 8:24 am

I guess they’re still trying, but they lost out on grant money recently. The December ‘22 streetview is pretty grim. Looks like the tile over one of the storefronts fell off.

rivest266 on January 9, 2017 at 4:06 pm

2 screens on October 5th, 1984. Grand opening ad in the photo section.

MovieMad52 on August 24, 2016 at 5:38 pm

Would love to manage this theatre when it is restored.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 5, 2015 at 11:19 pm

The Will Rogers Theatre opened on February 8, 1938, according to the March 21 issue of The Film Daily.

Scott on April 20, 2014 at 6:28 pm

I have uploaded a 1940 postcard view of the Will Rogers Theatre to the photo section.

Dumke on February 28, 2014 at 10:44 am

My husband and I are the new owners of the Will Rogers Theatre in Charleston IL. Our web site is www.WillRogersCharleston.com We have set up a http://www.gofundme.com/49rb4o to help with the restoration. Thank you for your interest and support of the project.

Dumke on February 28, 2014 at 10:40 am

For more information about the Will Rogers Theatre please visit www.WillRogersCharleston.com We have wonderful plans for restoration of this grand venue. Please support our mission.

Dottie on October 7, 2012 at 10:28 pm

My family has been to the Will Rogers Theater many times, back to when my husband and I were in college… back to when the management would post a note to remind the college kids that in the wintertime there may or may not be heat. It didn’t stop us from taking in the movies offered. My kids grew up watching movies there… after they split the theater (side by side for the Life’s too Short and yes, at one time it did have a balcony) they put semi-new seats in and upgraded the sound. The seating was still retched, lol, you had to look over people’s shoulders… but they had the best popcorn of all the movie theaters in central Illinois, and the kids that operated the counter were great and so was the management who would greet people who were regulars (like our family apparently). I was sorry to see AMC closed it’s doors and frankly, though the theater needed work, I didn’t understand it, it was packed every weekend.

Dumke on September 2, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Please check out the new web site for the Will Rogers Theatre in Charleston IL The Theatre is in restoration.


AnnieOhBanannieOh on August 17, 2012 at 2:42 am

A few short comments about the Will Rogers Theater: I didn’t come to Charleston, Illinois until later in adulthood but my family lives in a historical neighborhood within easy walking distance of The Square where the Will Rogers is located (just off). We thoroughly enjoyed walking from home down to Roc’s, a historical bar and BBQ joint on The Square for BBQ with a colorful history, then after dinner walking on down to Will Rogers for a movie. A delightful way to spend an evening. We always found the Will Rogers to be clean and comfortable but with an increasingly “neglected” look as time went on. Current movies were shown there at reduced rates, a great bargain. Then AMC bought it from Kerasotes and pretty quickly closed it. Last year the local newspaper reported that a couple had bought it with intentions of renovating/restoring it. They brought in a huge dumpster and there seemed to be some kind of work going on. Then the dumpster disappeared, work stopped and no further word on when or what is happening there for going on a year now. Final comment is that AMC was bought out last year by a Chinese group who bought up all the American AMC theaters. So the major movie theater chain in the U.S. is now China-owned.

CSWalczak on April 6, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Some additional information about the designation with pictures: View link.

CSWalczak on April 6, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Named recently to a list of the most endangered historical sites in Illinois: View link.

soybean on December 28, 2010 at 5:24 pm

I talked to a person who lives at Charleston today. She told me she stop going to the Will Rogers, though she lives close to the theater. As many of the seats were broken, sound was poor quality. The theater wasn’t in good shape. I don’t know if it was Kerasotes or it was AMC decision to let this theater become in bad shape. Causing the theater to lose customers. This use to be a great theater, with quality sound & seats in great shape. It’s sad that this great theater was let to get in this condition. I hope some person or group will save this theater & do the repairs needed to bring this theater back to the great theater it was.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on December 8, 2010 at 1:03 pm

That’s too bad. It was a really nice-looking room.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 8, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Or orchestra/balcony?

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on December 8, 2010 at 10:11 am

When it was divided, did they go left and right or front and back?

soybean on November 30, 2010 at 2:43 pm

I was shocked when I read today that the Will Rogers Theater had been closed by AMC. AMC seems to have been busy closing several theaters that they had bought from Kerasotes. I wonder how long it will be before the AMC Paris Theater, Paris, Illinois is closed by AMC for the same reason it has closed other theaters. At one time the former owner of the Star Dust Drive-In Theater at Charleston, Illinois try to buy the Will Rogers theater from Kerasotes. Charleston being a college town, I wouldn’t be surprise some else will try to reopen the Will Rogers Theater, unless AMC has it in writing it can’t be used as a movie theater when sold.

It seems odd, theater that Kerasotes operted for years was making money. AMC buys the theaters then closes them.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on November 30, 2010 at 10:46 am

My uncle lives in this town but I don’t know if he ever went to this theater.

CSWalczak on November 29, 2010 at 5:23 pm

This theater has been closed by AMC: View link

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on August 21, 2010 at 9:55 am

I was told i am a very distant relative.

rkloker on August 10, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Thanks to those providing photos. I grew up in a town about 15 miles from Charleston, during the 1960’s and 70’s, and went to many movies at the Will Rogers Theatre. I did not know that it is on the National Register of Historic Places, and am very glad to learn that it is. It is certainly a beautiful example of Art Deco style, and those aspects appear to be well-preserved. My grandfather had worked very briefly with Rogers, and I grew up keenly aware of how beloved by many, Rogers was. I would always stop and look at the large photo of him in the lobby (although I remember the photo being larger, from floor to ceiling—-I hope this is not an example of always remembering childhood things as being larger than they are actually are!). Anyway, thank you for bringing back some good memories.

kencmcintyre on April 22, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Here are some 1983 photos. The city is misidentified as Champaign in the first photo.

joyp on February 24, 2004 at 1:04 pm

The Gregg Toland Day Festival is September 25, 2004. The festivities include free showings of “Citizen Kane” and Wuthering Heights" at the Will Rogers as well as art vendors, live period music, children’s activities, walking tours, and an exhibit on Toland and his family roots. In conjunction with the festival, there will also be an academic symposium on September 24-25, 2004. For details, please use www.greggtolandday.com

robkincade on January 1, 2004 at 12:15 pm

The Will Rogers in Charleston is open but has been divided into two screens. It shows mostly movies that are just about at the end of their run, although it does show some newer movies if the local multiplex is extending popular films. The lobby, once grand for a small town, needs work. The outside is classic art deco movie palace. The local arts council is planning a film festival in September ‘04 to honor local-boy-made-good Gregg Toland, the cinemetographer for Citizen Kane. For info, check with www.charlestontourism.com Probably no info yet, but keep checking.