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Cyril W. “Pete” Lindroth and his brother Howard Lindroth borrowed $50,000 in 1949 to build the Lins-Air Drive-In Theater at 1801 Samuelson Road. The theater opened on May 30, 1950 with a 1000 car capacity and featured a large outdoor screen 100 feet wide, one of the largest movie screens in the nation at the time. The theater also included Kandy Kane Kiddieland, a playground for the children. The brothers paid off the loan on the Lins-Air Theater in three years and built the Bel- Mar Drive-In Theater in Belvidere in 1953. The brothers did not work well as business partners so it was agreed that C. W. would take ownership of the Belvidere theater while Howard assumed ownership of the Lins-Air. By 1961 over two million people had enjoyed movies at the theater. A building on the theater grounds served both as a concession stand and apartment building. Howard Lindroth would continue to operate the drive in movie theater until he decided to retire in 1968 and he closed the theater and put it up for sale, In 1971 the L & M Theater Management company of Chicago would purchase the theater from Lindroth.
The Lins Air Theater was destroyed by fire hours before it was scheduled to open for the new season on February 27, 1971. The building housed a concession stand, a large kitchen, rest room facilities and the theater office. A full seasons supply of frozen bread, Bar-B-Que, frozen pizzas and other foods were also destroyed in the fire. All of the theaters restaurant equipment was also destroyed. The fire was determined to be an arson fire with losses around $150,000. The theater would rebuild the projection booth and concession stand with the theater reopening on July 2, 1971. The air conditioned concessions building had all new equipment, and would offer a wider selection of food, along with the old favorites of popcorn, hamburgers and hot dogs, barbeques and ice cream, they would add pizza, corn dogs, shrimp rolls and tenderloins to the menu. They also had new tiled restrooms and electric in car heaters to accommodate the vehicles in cold weather. The theater opened up under a new name – the Sunset Drive In.
The completely rebuilt Sunset Theater at 1801 Samuelson Road situated on 16.77 acres, with its new concession stand and children’s playground held their grand opening on July 2, 1971 over the Fourth of July weekend. As part of the celebration the theater put on a giant fireworks show. The new air conditioned concessions building had all new equipment, and would offer a wider selection of food, along with the old favorites of popcorn, hamburgers and hot dogs, barbeques and ice cream, they would add pizza, corn dogs, shrimp rolls and tenderloins to the menu. During the grand opening weekend and to introduce guests to the new concession area they offered a free box of popcorn with every large drink purchased. They also had new tiled restrooms and offered electric in car heaters to accommodate the patrons in cold weather.
L & M Theater Management Company which operated the facility until 1983 would sell the theater to Southland News, Inc., a Kentucky corporation. A family movie theater for years it started showing pornographic movies in its waning years to attract customers. Since the movies could be seen by passing cars and nearby residents the theater faced many legal challenges, all the way up to the U. S. Supreme Court which sided with a Winnebago County ordinance banning sexual intrigue being viewed by non-theater patrons. The theater would close at the end of the 1985 season and never re-open. The theater was listed for sale in 1986. It experienced several arson fires in the following years damaging the concession stand and apartment located on the premises, as well as the ticket booth. An effort was made to reopen the theater later on in the mid 2000's but since the area had grown with housing and condominium’s the city council rejected the idea.
In 1964 farmland located at the southeast corner of U. S. Highway 20 (East State Street) and Lyford Road was purchased and rezoned to permit use of the site for an indoor-outdoor theater. The new $75,000 was named the Belford, a contraction of Belvidere and Rockford as it was situated between the two cities. The co-owners of the theater were Oscar Granquist and George Kerasotes, Granquist and Kerasotes were also co-owners of the State Theater in downtown Rockford at the time.
The Belford Dual Theaters would open to the public on December 23, 1965 with the opening night films being an animated movie, Pinocchio in Outer Space, and an Elvis Presley musical, Harem Scarum. Admission tickets were purchased at the ticket booth at the entrance to the theater and the ticket admitted you to either the indoor or outdoor theater, or both. In the beginning both screens would show the same films, although at different times. A matinée was shown daily at the indoor theater, with the outdoor program starting at sunset. Eventually they showed different movies on the indoor and outdoor screens.
In September 1971 the request for a second screen was granted to the Kerasotes Theater chain by Winnebago County Zoning Board. The theater would become a tri-plex when the second outdoor screen was located back-to-back with the current screen in 1973, and the management added an additional 500 ramped parking spaces for vehicles at that screen. In 1974 both drive in screens went to a seven day a week format. Around 1976 the indoor theater was remodeled and turned into two theaters bring the total number of screens to four at the complex. In 1980 the indoor theater was expanded and remodeled and it became a four-plex, bringing the total number of movie screens up to six at the Belford.
The theater would close on September 17, 1995 to make way for a new modern 16 screen indoor theater called Showplace 16 which opened on the site of one of the former screens in 1997. The Kerasotes chain was sold to AMC Theaters in January 2010.
The Plitt Theater chain would build a three screen theater complex outside of the CherryVale Mall in a 26,000 square foot stand-alone building located at 1976 CherryVale Drive in the northeast parking area of the mall. Opening on August 29th, 1975 the theater featured Massey Seating Company “rocking chair” seats with seating capacity being around 2,000 seats total in the three auditoriums. The opening features were Walking Tall, Tommy and The Drowning Pool. Plitt would open four more screens located inside of the CherryVale Mall at 7200 Harrison Avenue on February 11th, 1983. Both the indoor and free standing theaters originally opened with the area’s best amenities and accommodations, the theaters changed hands several times, with Plitt selling to Cineplex Odeon Theaters and the Kerasotes theater chain being the final owner. After Kerasotes opened the mega complex Showplace 16 on East State Street, the CherryVale Theaters were used as a second run discount movie theater. The theaters were abandoned in February 1999.
North Towne Cinemas, 3600 North Main Street. Opened January 23rd, 1976 with two screens. Expanded to six screens in 1990. Toward the end the theater would show second run movies for one dollar. The theaters were shuttered in November 2008.
Courtsey of Kelly Sullivan
Colonial Village Cinema, 4228 Newburg Road. A free standing four screen theater located at at Colonial Village Mall. Opened on June 17th, 1977 showing first run movies, later switching to more obscure art movies and closed in 1998.
Movies at Machesney Park Mall located at 8750 North Second Street would 0pen on March 17th, 1980 with four screens. In 1984 six more screens were added bringing the total to ten screens and the name was changed to Machesney Park Ten to reflect the change. They would all close in 2005 after ShowPlace 14 opened elsewhere in Machesney Park.
The Northridge 4 Theaters located at 3849 Northridge Drive was opened in 1984. This short lived theater which featured four screens, was closed in 1988 when it was sold and razed in order to build a Walmart Super Center (Riverside at Forest Hills)
And a few others
Kaiserhoff Theater, located at 221 South Main Street opened it's doors on May 28, 1912 under the management of Sam Rose
Air Dome was located at the corner of Seventh Street and Charles in 1912
Rockford Picture Parlor located at 106 West State Street in 1911
Columbia Theater located at 1007 South Main Street in 1920
Olympic Theater located at Seventh Street and Sixth Avenue in 1910
Princess Theater located at 322 West State Street in 1911
Bijou Theater was located at 213 - 215 East State Street in 1906
Star Theater was located at 213 -215 East State Street in 1927
Big Tent Theater was located at the corner of Court and Mulberry Streets in 1905
The Cascade was located at 322 West State Street in 1909
Liberty Theater was located at Camp Grant in 1917
Jewel Theater was located at 316 West State Street in 1914
Lyric Theater was located at 617 Seventh Street in 1910
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