104 North Broadway, Urbana, Illinois
Opened Saturday 1 November 1913
Closed circa 1927
The Colonial theatre opened Saturday, November 1, 1913. The opening night crowd was so large that people had to be turned away. Both the pictures and the music by the orchestra were hits with the audience.
The manager, Mr. Bloe, made every effort to please his audiences. The pictures were shown on a mirror screen and a four-piece orchestra, conducted by A.A. Harding, played for all the night performances. There were daily matinees. Mr. Bloe promised no waits between pictures and no advertising slides. He felt that they bored the patrons, and that it was the mission of the newspaper to do advertising.
Joseph William Royer designed the Colonial Theatre building. We know from newspaper stories that the management had made efforts to make the theatre building sanitary and fireproof, including installing a concrete floor. Ventilation was provided by three 36-inch ventilators in the roof with openings in the ceiling to allow for a constant change of air. And the auditorium was lit with an indirect lighting system.
The Colonial ran some interesting promotions over the years. On Tuesday the 20th of January, 1914, from 2 - 6 pm all boys and girls under 16 years old were admitted free. A total of 2,873 children attended the free show organized by the new manager, Mr. Wheeler, who had just come to town from Kankakee, and had seven children of his own. The show included a special selection of pictures and a sing-along led by R. S. Dunnam, conductor of the Colonial orchestra.
Another promotion, a contest called "The Colonial Woman of Mystery," ran in late November of 1915. Newspaper ads ran pictures of the lower half of the mystery woman's face. She would go about the two towns each day shopping and visiting like an ordinary citizen and would attend the evening show at the Colonial. The object was to discover which woman was the "Colonial Woman of Mystery." The prize was $25.00.
By 1932, the Colonial Theatre had ceased operating. This left operating the core group of theatres that would last for years: The Park Theatre, Princess Theatre, Orpheum Theatre, Virginia Theatre, Rialto Theatre, and the Varsity Theatre; the Co-Ed had not yet opened.
The Alger Brothers purchased the Colonial in 1929. After it sat unused for a few years, they reopened it as the Albro Theatre in September 1935.
The building was razed in 1952.
Colonial grand opening ad in the Champaign County Herald 17 October 1913.
This detail from the 1924 Sanborn insurance map helps locate the Colonial a few doors north of the intersection of Broadway and Main. For reference, the courthouse in at the bottom of the map.
From the Champaign Daily Gazette
Tuesday 31 August 1915.
From the News-Gazette
Sunday 16 October 1921.
From the News-Gazette
Monday 28 November 1921.
From the Champaign News-Gazette
Monday 21 November 1921.