Crocker Theater

96 S. Grove Avenue,
Elgin, IL 60120

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Balaban & Katz Corp., Plitt Theatres

Styles: Neo-Classical

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Crocker Theater

The Crocker Theater was built in 1923, and was the largest theater at the time in Elgin. It showed silent films, and had up to three vaudeville acts each day. A Wurlitzer organ once accompanied the films, as well as popular sing-alongs before and after features. Among the celebrities to grace the stage of the Crocker Theater in its early days were Admiral Richard Byrd, sharing his polar adventures, and Gene Autry, the cowboy star.

The theater began showing sound films in 1929, but by the mid-1970’s, the theater had become a venue for Spanish-language films. It closed its doors in 1981 and has remained shuttered since.

Several schemes for its future came and went, including reopening it as a movie theater, converting it into a nightclub, and giving it over to mixed retail and residential use.

Since the Crocker Theater was acquired by the city of Elgin in 2000, it had not been able to come up with a concrete decision on the future of the theater, which was entirely gutted inside by its previous owner. In June 2005, the city had the Crocker Theater razed to make way for a condominium development project.

The Crocker Theater was never overly ornate, but built in a simple, Neo-Classical style, with a terra cotta facade, partially hidden behind a 1950’s vintage marquee.

Contributed by Paul Salley

Recent comments (view all 45 comments)

uptownjen on April 30, 2008 at 10:27 am

just found this, on a related note:
View link

elginite on April 30, 2008 at 2:13 pm

The marquee unfortunately wasn’t saved. I thought it looked great and it worked really well with the original building. The rest of the facade has, however, supposedly been put into storage by the city of Elgin.

The site of the Crocker Theater remains empty, and the state of the housing market implies it may stay empty for a long time.

If you’re interested in following developments pertaining to the Crocker site and how it’s redeveloped or Elgin news in general, you can grab a feed of my Elgin blog.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 18, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Photo two shows what looks like one-sheets in the poster frames,But nothing on the marquee.Did they just shut down and left the one sheets in or were they too lazy to put a title up.Strange!

TLSLOEWS on June 18, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Acording to the header Mike this theatre closed in 1981,and the photos are from 1982 looks like they just left the one-sheets up instead of taking them home.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 18, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Man,why didn’t they take them.Bet someone got them.

DAL on April 2, 2013 at 8:43 am

The Crocker was a Plitt Theatre in the mid-70’s when I joined the company. I remember two things about the time I helped out covering shifts there: (1) the classic front was way more impressive than any of the interior, expecially the ugly auditorium, and (2) the guy my DM hired to run the place would take a short break to “go down the street” and come back reeking of alcohol.

LouRugani on March 27, 2018 at 6:03 pm

(Elgin Daily Herald, 1998) – CROCKER DEVELOPER HAVING SECOND THOUGHTS By Brad Hahn Daily Herald Staff Writer

Five months after unveiling his plan to transform Elgin’s Crocker Theater into a thriving downtown mecca, a Chicago-area developer is having second thoughts. Jeff Maher said he’s frustrated by the lack of progress in turning the abandoned landmark into a discount movie house. A tentative agreement to purchase the Crocker expires today, and the developer said he’s unsure if he’ll continue pursuing the building. “I don’t know if I’ll accept or not,” said Maher of an opportunity to extend the agreement. “I don’t know if anyone wants to play ball.“ Specifically, Maher is looking for a response to a preliminary plan he submitted to the Elgin Chamber of Commerce months ago. In that proposal, the developer said it would cost between $2 million and $2.4 million to rehabilitate the gutted auditorium. But to be successful, Maher said, he needed the city’s help. Exactly how much Elgin would have to pitch in was not specified. That detail was left out on purpose, said the developer, who made a success of a similar project in Kenosha, Wis. “Nothing was engraved in stone for price,” he said. “I wanted to see what they’re willing to do and go from there.” But the omission has caused the project to stall, said Jim McConoughey, vice president for economic development at the chamber. After a series of meetings with Maher, McConoughey reviewed the preliminary report and asked for more specifics. Serving as a conduit between developers and the government, McConoughey said he wants to make sure any plan submitted is complete and practical. “A project scope has to come from the developer with details of what his project would be and what the city’s role would be,” McConoughey said. Underlying the discussion is Maher’s tentative pledge to buy the Crocker from current owner Dominic Buttita for $800,000. Some officials at city hall believe the price is too high, given Buttita paid about half that amount for the building two years ago. They’re wary of taxpayer money being used for the owner to make a profit. But Buttita said improvements to the building — including a new roof — bring his investment to more than $1 million. “I think they think I’m making money on this deal and I’m not — I’m going to be losing money,” he said. If Maher can work out financing, a discount movie theater is in line with the city’s plan for downtown, McConoughey said. The question now — as it was months ago — is whether the city and developer can reach a consensus. “I think it would be something people would go to,” McConoughey said. “It would bring folks downtown that historically have not gone downtown.”

Khnemu on November 3, 2019 at 1:02 pm

Portions of the salvaged Crocker facade have been rediscovered recently:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 4, 2021 at 6:24 pm

Here is an item from the May 5, 1923 issue of The Moving Picture World:

“Ralph Crocker of Elgin, prominent in the film circles of the northern part of the state, now says that the new house he is building in Elgin will be ready by June 1st. and will be known as the Crocker Theatre. It will seat 1,700.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 22, 2022 at 7:05 pm

The September 9, 1922 issue of The American Contractor said that the theater being built at Elgin for Ralph Crocker was designed by architect Ralph E. (Elliot) Abell.

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