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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Antioch Theatre (1924 - )

July 26, 2014 marks the 90th anniversary of the grand opening of the Antioch Theatre building in Antioch, Illinois.

Advertisement in the Antioch News
for the Grand Opening of the
Antioch Theatre, July 26, 1924. 
The theatre venture was a co-partnership between Lyman B. Grice of Antioch and William C. Bryant of Bristol, Wisconsin. The building, located on the south side of Lake Street, and west of the Opera House, had modern conveniences and seats for 400 patrons. The projected cost of the building was $40,000.

14th Cavalry wagon train postcard, showing businesses 
on east side of Main Street, Antioch, circa 1925.
(LCDM 92.24.1177)
Groundbreaking for the new theatre began on Wednesday, September 26, 1923. Soon after construction began, Grice and Bryant sold a 1/2 interest in the venture to James P. Johnson and Albert L. Fell. Johnson was a local proprietor of a resort hotel and the father of Oliver G. Johnson, who was managing the Majestic Theatre in Antioch.

In January 1924, Oliver G. Johnson announced he was moving his motion picture business (Majestic Theatre) into the new theatre building under construction on Lake Street. Johnson had given up his lease with Barney Naber on Main Street, who would be leasing the former movie house to William Ross for a restaurant. The Majestic Threatre had been in Naber's building since April 27, 1919.

The name of the new theatre under construction was originally proposed as the New Majestic Threatre, but that name was dropped in favor of the Antioch Theatre. Oliver G. Johnson brought in his brother Frank Johnson to co-manage the theatre.

The motto of the Antioch Theatre was "The Public is Right." The first feature presentation was Zane Grey's "The Wanderer of the Wasteland."

"Wanderer of the Wasteland"
was the first feature film shown in the Antioch Theatre.

The person who was most associated with the success and improvements of the Antioch Theatre was Fred B. Swanson of Antioch. He began managing the facility by December 1925. He remained as manager until May 21, 1941 when he purchased the building, and become sole owner. He also owned other movie houses in the Midwest.

In October 1947, Swanson announced he had completed the remodeling of the Antioch Theatre. The remodeling gave the theatre an additional 100 seats in the balcony.

October 31, 1957, Swanson sold the Antioch Theatre to William Goeway of Antioch. Goeway took control on November 4. He also owned the nearby Lakes Theatre. Goeway planned a new deluxe concession department and extensive remodeling of the theatre.

On May 31, 1962, Goeway sold the Antioch Theatre to Henry C. Rhyan of the Family Outdoor Theater in Grayslake. Goeway moved to Jacksonville, Florida where he intended to continue in the movie business.
Tim Downey photo, c. 2014
The Antioch Theatre is on the cusp of a new life. With the support of the community and the Village of Antioch, Tim Downey (owner) is leading the redevelopment effort. 

Source: Archives.org (Antioch News, 1923 - 1962)

Special thanks to museum volunteer & researcher, Al Westerman. 

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