• Random Movie Quote

    Bo Catlett: What is the point of living in L.A. if you’re not in the movie business?

    — Get Shorty (1995)

The Last Dream Palace

Madison Theater Peoria IL

One thing that I can thank my mother for, besides giving birth to and raising me, was introducing me to the Dream Palaces of Peoria. TV was our main form of entertainment in the Sears household, but every once in a while, Mom would take us kids to downtown Peoria and treat us to a movie.

Our movie trips took place during the 1960s and 70s. During this time, the old movie theaters, the Rialto, the Palace, and the Madison were still actively in use. Higher up on the bluffs, there were also the Varsity and the Beverly. They were all mere shadows of what they once were, but I used to delight in the remaining workmanship that went into their interiors. The concession stand would be a tiny plastic thing compared to the huge lobby. While we would wait for the movie to begin, I would stare up at the high ceiling and lose myself in its detailed designs.

During the 80s, those Dream Palaces came down to make way for new buildings. The Rialto came down first. The last movie shown in it was The Jerk starring Steve Martin. The Palace joined the Rialto soon after. The Varsity and Beverly came down after struggling for a few years. At one point, the Varsity had been split in two, with the balcony turned into a separate theater. The large theaters were only useful when there was a huge blockbuster movie. Otherwise, people were happy to visit the smaller metroplex theaters.

The Madison stayed up, however. They added it to the National Register for Historic Places on November 1, 1980. It went unused until 1996, when Jay Goldberg Events & Entertainment reworked it into a venue for live concerts. The theater closed in 2003, and this last surviving Dream Palace lays waiting to be used once more.

Cinema Treasures

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Peoria Journal Star

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