Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New Life Coming to Town and Country

The former Town and Country Cinema building as of April 29, 2015

The old Town and Country Cinema which has sit empty for around two decades will soon see some new activity. Yesterday representatives of the Brooklyn, New York-based owners could be seen talking with their local long-time Realtor, J. David Thompson of Coldwell Banker Realty in the parking lot of the shopping center. Thompson later confirmed that the owners plan on remodeling the cinema.

Although he didn't share any details, the building is in the relatively new Hub TIF district the city created which encourages redevelopment of existing structures.

The last few years have not been kind to the structure. Part of the brick fa├žade either fell down or was taken down after it separated from the block wall on the west end of the north side.

Kerasotes opened the west half of the building as the Town and Country Twin Cinema on Friday, April 11, 1975, to take the place of the old Orpheum Theatre downtown that the city restored and reopened as the Marion Cultural and Civic Center.

Bill Ivy managed the cinema at the time. On opening night patrons had their choice between the now-classic Young Frankenstein or the Four Musketeers. Tickets were just $2. Both theaters seated 240.

Two years later on March 13, 1977, Ivy, now a district supervisor for Kerasotes announced that the company would add two more theaters on the west side. At the time it would be the only four-plex Kerasotes operated. The two new theaters were planned to seat 238. The expanded complex opened later that summer.

The building suffered a small electrical fire on one of the men's restrooms in April 17, 1998, which caused theater-goers to be evacuated during the opening night of the "Babe" and "Beethoven"films.

Following the construction of the Illinois Center Mall, Kerasotes bought ground for a new theater in July 1992. The next summer in June 1993 Kerasotes started on their new 8-plex complex behind the mall with a planned opening date of Dec. 1, 1993. At the time Kerasotes planned to keep the old theater open, though that didn't last long.

The Town and Country Shopping Center first opened in stages in 1973. The May 29, 1982, tornado leveled the complex and it was rebuilt and a grand reopening was held early in 1983.