The town of Hoopeston, Illinois is a modest little thing, weighing in at well under 6,000 residents. The town’s nightlife hasn’t always been booming, but back in the early part of the 20th Century, a man named E.J. Boorde would not let the people of Hoopeston go quietly into that dark night.
By November of 1921, Boorde and his conspirators had laid the foundation for a movie palace that would blow its nearby rivals out of the water. Over the course of just a few months’ time, construction on the Lorraine Theatre was completed at the cost of $100,000 thanks to a swank interior and top-of-the-line safety precautions. On March 6, 1922, the Lorraine opened its doors to the public for its very first screening of the Gloria Swanson film The Great Moment.
By the time 1937 rolled around, the Lorraine underwent a floor-to-ceiling Art Deco redecoration. Orchestrated by Alex Claussen, Chicago’s famed theater designer, the interior’s sound panels were hand painted with motifs that have remained untouched ever since. It was also during this time that the Lorraine boasted one of the most advanced theater sound systems in the region, which drew audiences from miles around to visit the theater, simply to hear a film.
The Lorraine continued its uninterrupted run as a theater until 2012, when it was finally retired. Today, it is run by the Save the Lorraine foundation, a community group who is in the process of renovating the building in hopes of restoring it to its former Art Deco glory, sans water damage, whereupon it could resume its former life as a live event venue and movie house for the people of Hoopeston and the surrounding communities.
Know Before You Go
Hoopeston is in the middle of a heavy agricultural community. The town is small and completely surrounded by farmland. Driving is the only way to get here, and parking spots are abundant. Be sure to check out the Little Lorraine, a smaller screening theater just down the street run by the Save the Lorraine foundation.