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Theaters in Wood River, Illinois

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser



WOOD RIVER (NO. 1)     |     WOOD RIVER (NO. 2)



The Avenue Airdome was located on Ferguson Avenue in Wood River, and was owned and operated by Messrs. Everett and Goodwin. This airdome opened on May 4, 1915, with Fulton Goodwin as the manager. The Avenue Airdome was Wood River’s second moving picture airdome, the Casino Airdome having been opened in 1914 by Samuel Simon. After the grand opening of the Avenue, it was found that the “picture machine” had a problem, and had to be sent away for repairs. The airdome re-opened May 11, 1915, showing moving pictures four nights a week. In June 1915, the Avenue Airdome was sold to E. E. Endicott, Chief Electrician at the Standard Oil Refinery. Five hundred new chairs were installed, and was reportedly doing a good business. The Avenue probably continued for the season, and closed permanently in the Fall.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 3, 1915
The new Wood River Airdome, which has been styled the “Avenue Airdome,” will be opened Tuesday night. The Airdome will be run under the partnership firm of Everett & Goodwin. Fulton Goodwin of Alton is the manager. A good program will be put on Tuesday night.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 12, 1915
The second show of the Avenue Airdome, which was opened last week in Wood River, was given last night. After the first show, it was found there was something the matter with the picture machine, and it had to be sent away for repairs. During that time, no show was given until last night. For several weeks yet, shows will be given four nights a week, but later on a show will be given every night in the week.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 14, 1915
The next time Marshal J. T. Phipps of Wood River is called on to arrest a suspicious character, he promises that he will use extra care to assure himself that the person is not wearing a mask as a professional comedian. On Saturday night, he arrested a comedian made up for a performance, in front of the Avenue Airdome, and it was not until the marshal had taken the comedian before the manager of the show, Fulton Goodwin, that he was assured that the person arrested was not a suspicious character wearing a mask, but an actor who had put on a beard. Marshal Phipps, in an interview about the matter today, admitted it was a good joke on him, but there was some reason for the mistake, and any officer under similar circumstances would have done likewise. He said that a few nights ago, Mrs. Henry Eckhardt of Wood River was frightened by a man she met wearing a mask as she was going home. Several other complaints have been made about a man wearing a beard disguise similar to the one worn by the comedian, and this was the cause for his being picked up.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 23, 1915
The Avenue Airdome, conducted by Fulton Goodwin, has been transferred by Goodwin to E. E. Endicott, Chief Electrician at the Standard Oil Refinery, who has taken charge and will conduct it as formerly. The Avenue was recently built by Goodwin, and 500 new chairs were installed. It is reported to have been doing a good business.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 29, 1915
The Camp Fire Girls of Wood River began last night holding moving picture shows in the Avenue Airdome, under the supervision of Mrs. E. E. Endicott. There was a good attendance. The shows will be given all week, and the proceeds will go towards the Camp Fire Girls’ treasury fund.




Alt-Wood/Capri Drive-In Theater, Wood River, ILThe Alt-Wood Drive-In Theater, located in the 200 block of N. Old St. Louis Road in Wood River, opened in June 1949. It was constructed by O. M. Brown Construction Company. The latest in projection and sound equipment was installed, with individual speakers placed in the cars to enable occupants to adjust the sound to their liking. A playground for children was on the premises, which was equipped with slides, swings, and a merry-go-round. The theater also had a concession stand. The Alt-Wood Drive-In had a capacity of more than 500 cars, with the movie screen erected on a 72-foot tower, equivalent to a five-story building.

In about 1961, the Alt-Wood Drive-In became the Capri Drive-In Theater. Included in the improvements of the Capri were a new snack bar, new projection and sound equipment, new box office, and an improved playground. In 1974, the Wood River City Council passed a rigid obscenity ordinance that resulted from citizens complaining about “lewd” movies being shown at the Capri. The Capri closed between 1974 and 1987.

In 1987, the Helmkamp Construction Company located their new office on the premises of the old drive-in theater, and the 10-acre site was to be developed into a business/industrial park.

Currently, the property is occupied by Fire Safety, Slayden Glass, and RLS Trucking.

Capri Drive-In Theater, Wood River, IL


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 27, 1949
Alton’s introduction to the latest in entertainment is scheduled for the first part of June, when the Alt-Wood outdoor theater, located on the Old St. Louis road, between Wood River and East Alton, is completed and opens to the public. The latest projection and sound equipment is being installed for the showing of motion pictures in the outdoor theater, where patrons may dirve in with their automobiles and view the films from their cars. Many convenient features are being offered at the outdoor theater. Individual speakers placed in the cars will enable occupants to adjust the volume sound control to satisfy their own enjoyment. A playground for children on the theater grounds will be equipped with slides, swings, merry-go-round, plus baby bottle warmers. A pavilion has been built at the theater where patrons may obtain refreshments, and men’s restrooms are conveniently located in the center of the car ramps. The outdoor theater has a capacity of more than 500 cars. It will offer a section for walk-in patrons separated from the parking field. A large bay is provided where cars can await entrance to the theater. Ramps are provided that will enable all occupants of a car to have full vision of the screen, erected on a 72-foot tower, equivalent to a five-story building, the tower being set in concrete. The entrance driveways to the theater will be faced with large and attractive signs, with large flashing entrance arrows. The construction of the theater is being done by the O. M. Brown Construction Company. O. W. Maguire will install the signs. Electrical work is being done by the Kramer Electric Company, and grading by Bob Swan – both of Wood River.




Antlers Theater, Wood River, IL

The Antlers Theater was located somewhere on Ferguson Avenue, and was only open in 1916. After it was sold in January 1917, I could find no further information on the theater.

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, October 25, 1916
The band in the employ of the F. H. Beane’s United Shows, which is in Benbow City this week, quit last night as the result of dissatisfaction over a salary disagreement, and went to the Antlers Theater, where they played several selections. The band also played about town on the streets before the show, announcing that they would play in the theater, and a large crowd was attracted to the theater.

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, January 25, 1917
Mrs. E. E. Endicott, who conducted the Antlers Theater in Wood River for several years, has returned from the management of the theater and has moved out of the building into another building on Ferguson Avenue. Under Mrs. Endicott, the theater showed some high-class pictures, and the theater did a great deal of good in a civic way by holding entertainments for the benefit of the Wood River Woman’s Club. She sold the theater and the restaurant in connection with it to J. A. Lonie of Alton, who in turn sold out the theater business to Mrs. Summers of St. Louis. Mrs. Summers has been conducting a picture show in St. Louis, and announces that the same policy of high-grade pictures for the theater will be continued.





The Casino Airdome in Wood River was opened in 1914, and was owned by Samuel Simon. In June 1915, the theater was closed due to two attachments issued in court for debts. One attachment was for $40 from the Rieth Lumberyard. The other attachment was for a piano owned by Eugene Schwartztrauben, which was damaged by leaving it out in the rain at the airdome.




Kil-Kare Theater, Wood River, ILOpening in 1915 by proprietors Wahl and Worcester, the new silent movie house at 56 E. Ferguson in Wood River featured the most up-to-date innovations, including two restrooms equipped with copper-lined flush tanks, faced in wood. In the brief heyday of silent pictures, the Kil Kare was Wood River’s picture palace. Local resident Margaret Volz was artist in residence in 1916, adding an appropriate piano accompaniment.

The theater included a stage with curtains, and bench seating for movie goers. It cost a dime to get in. The building included an orchestra pit, old coal room, and boiler room. The Kil Kare Theater building was faced with black marble, and the ceiling was lined with fancy metal. The marble facings have been replaced with aggregate, as has the name of the theater, once part of the façade. The windows along the east side of the building are sealed. In 1923, the theater was redecorated throughout. In 1925, the managers of the theater – C. R. Wahl and A. W. Worcester – had the name “Wood River” painted in large, white letters on the roof of the building. This was done so aviators would be able to recognize the city they were flying over.

The theater closed in 1929. Since then, the Ben Franklin store moved into the building, and then Western Auto. The building currently houses a resale shop.




Midtown Theater, Wood River, IL


George Evanoff operated the 650-seat Midtown Theater at 145 East Ferguson Avenue in Wood River from 1949 to 1953. After it closed, the building was used as a warehouse by a furniture company. In 1998, the Civic Action Body, a nonprofit association of individuals and businesses, acquired the old theater. It was re-opened in November 1998 as the Midtown Theater and Cultural Arts Center. Today, it houses the Riverbend Bounce and Party Center.




Old Wood River Theater, Wood River, IL

The original Wood River Theater was constructed in 1916, and was located on Ferguson Avenue in Wood River, across from the First National Bank of Wood River.  It is unknown when this theater closed.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, August 19, 1916
The work of reconstructing the Wood River Theater building, which partly fell down during the storm of Monday night, has been started. The opening of the theater will be greatly delayed on account of the falling of the building.



Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, November 10, 1916
The plastering is being done for the new Wood River Theater, which is to be conducted by Messrs. Charles Wahl and A. W. Worchester. The work on the metal ceiling has been started.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, November 14, 1916
The seats are being put in the new Wood River Theater on Ferguson Avenue. The metal ceiling is being put on. It is planned to open the theater within a few weeks.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, November 18, 1916
The proprietors of the new theater, which is being put up on Ferguson Avenue in Wood River, are planning to open the theater on Thanksgiving Day. The opening of the theater has been long delayed because of the failure of materials ordered to arrive. The finishing work is now being done on the building, which is to be one of the nicest in Wood River.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 7, 1963
Clyde Donham, Wood River Township Supervisor, entered his new office in the old Wood River theater building across from the First National Bank of Wood River.  (Note: the First National Bank of Wood River was establshed in 1920, and was located on the northeast corner of W. Ferguson and Wood River Avenues.)




New Wood River Theater, Wood River, IL

The new Wood River Theater, which opened in 1927, was located at Wood River and Lorena Avenues. It was constructed on the former property of Dennis Kehne, whose home was moved off the property to make way for the new, $100,000 theater, which included a pipe organ. The Wood River Theater closed in February 1961, and the Embers Restaurant located there. Today, this property is part of the parking lot for the Wood River City Hall and Police Station.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 26, 1927
Tobias Neumann, the Bethalto house mover and general contractor who is at work on the Dan Hartnett property at the Forks of the Road east of Upper Alton, is going to move Dennis Kehne’s home off its present site in Wood River, where the new, hundred-thousand-dollar theater is to be erected. Mr. Neumann is hurrying up his work here as the time when the building must be out of the way for the Wood River Theater is getting short.

New Wood River Theater, Wood River, IL 

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, September 28, 1927
The New Wood River Theater was set to open September 29, 1927 at 6:00 p.m. For 50 cents, patrons could see 5 acts of vaudeville, hear Professor Herzwurm playing the pipe organ, and watch Richard Dix in “Shanghai Bound.” However due to a large storm, the power went out, and the shows didn’t start until 8:00 p.m. Every seat in the house was occupied when the curtain lifted for the screen showing. In attendance was James Reilly, former Princess manager, and William M. Sauvage of the Sauvage Amusement Enterprises of Alton, and the entire surrounding communities sent out their congratulations on the opening. The artistic decorations in the theater were from the artistic hand of Max Autenrelb of Edwardsville. It took him fourteen days to complete the decorating. The pipe organ in the theater was from the Gratian and Son pipe organ plant in Alton. The millwork was completed by the Ginter-Wardein Company in Alton. Herbert Hellrung was the contractor in charge of construction.

On opening night, the builders of the theater will be on hand to greet guests. Frank Saunders of the Bank of Edwardsville and M. L. Burroughs, a well-known Edwardsville attorney, are allied with the three Foehkalb brothers in ownership and management of the new theater, and they also own and operate the Wildey in Edwardsville and the Princess in Alton. The three theaters are operated and owned under the name of the United Operating Corporation. The three Faehkalb brothers will have charge of the management of the three theaters. Andrew Faehkalb being the manager of the new Wood River Theater.


Source: Alton Telegraph, January 10, 1989
January 10, 1939 – Just as painters neared the end of a redecorating job on the Wood River Theater ceiling, and were dismantling their scaffold, the scaffold broke and dropped two men 18 feet to the floor. Dwight Moody and Willis Ewing were admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, February 18, 1986
February 18, 1961 – A long-time landmark, the Wood River Theater, would close its doors for the last time February 20, 1961, to make way for a coin-operated dry cleaning and laundry firm. The Publix Great States Co. of Chicago, owners of the building, announced regret at closing the building as a theater, but attributed it to dwindling receipts over the previous few years. Harold Hosto of Troy had leased the building for the dry-cleaning and laundry service – the type operated by the public.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, January 30, 1966
On January 24, 1966, a pre-dawn fire destroyed the former Wood River Theater (then Embers Restaurant and Nightclub), the Wood River Township office, Costanzo Jewelers, The Beauty Lounge, The Laundry & Dry-Cleaning Village, and the offices of Dr. Thomas Kelly. The fire originated in the Embers Restaurant and Lounge (formerly the Wood River Theater), and quickly spread along the ceiling to businesses nearby. It was noticed by waitresses at nearby Nita’s Café and a table full of customers. The temperature dropped from 17 to 10 degrees while firemen battled the blaze. Ice caked on fire hoses, and quickly froze against firemen’s faces, helmets, and clothing. The township records and the jewelry from the Costanzo Jewelers was moved into a building nearby. Thousands of dollars’ worth of jewelry was lost in the fire, however.  Currently this property is part of the Wood River City Hall and Police Station.


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