Tour The Tivoli, the Wonder Theatre of Suburban Chicago - Atlas Obscura

Downers Grove, Illinois

Tour The Tivoli, the Wonder Theatre of Suburban Chicago

Discover what separates this classic movie theatre from others in the Chicago area.

Peek behind the curtain (and travel through a secret passageway!) of The Tivoli Theatre as you learn about its 90-year-old history, architectural style, and ever-evolving business operations.

Built in 1928, The Tivoli Theatre remains unique to Chicago for at least two reasons. First, The Tivoli was the second theatre in the U.S. designed and built to show "talkies" (the Brooklyn Paramount was the first). As a result, early newspaper ads promoted it as “the wonder theatre of suburban Chicago," where you could actually "hear what you see.”

The Tivoli Theatre also holds the distinction of being one of the last single-screen theatres in the Chicago area. Unlike many large movie theatres in the 1960s and 1970s, The Tivoli was never split into a multiplex, with multiple screens in multiple auditoriums.

As part of Atlas Obscura's 2019 Focus on Film series, join us for an exclusive tour of The Tivoli Theatre. After a brief presentation, we'll go behind the scenes of this unique and historic theatre—visiting its projection and sound booths, Wurlitzer pipe organ, backstage and below-the-stage spaces, and a secret passage that leads into the Tivoli Bowling Lanes.


In 1889, Eastman Kodak sold its first strip of film stock, a flexible and transparent material used for recording motion pictures. It's now exactly 130 years later, and while film stock has mostly fallen by the wayside, the images photographed on it remain. For 2019, Atlas Obscura is delighted to focus on film with a series of events curated by Field Agent and film scholar Dr. Kelli Marshall. Taking place in theaters and venues in and around Chicago, these events will explore the moving picture in all its iterations: themes, techniques, characters, genres, directors, stars, and physical locations. Join us in 2019 as we celebrate film stock's 130th birthday and take a deep dive into its contents!


  • About 10 minutes prior to starting time, please check in with Field Agent Kelli Marshall in the lobby of The Tivoli Theatre, 5021 Highland Avenue, Downers Grove, IL 60515.
  • This indoor event runs in rain, snow, or shine.
  • Parking is available; Metra: BNSF.
  • The ticket is non-refundable, but you can transfer your purchase by following this handy Eventbrite tutorial.


Email Joie Mikitson at

Stay connected! Subscribe to the Atlas Obscura Society Chicago newsletter and join our Facebook Group for a first glimpse at upcoming events.

Advance tickets only. All sales final. No refunds or exchanges.