ILLINOIS VAUDEVILLE THEATRE
Neil Street at the head of Main Street, Champaign
Opened 7 October 1907
Closed 28 May 1908
Local showman Emil Lehr opened his own playhouse in a storefront in what is commonly called the “Metropolitan Building” on Neil Street, a little south of Church Street. Over 500 patrons attended opening night on Monday, 7 October 1907. The house features moving pictures, vaudeville, and illustrated songs. The pictures were normally changed every night.
The Champaign Daily Gazette claimed “one of the most attractive electric signs yet put up in Champaign, is that which was erected yesterday [10 October 1907] afternoon by the management of the Illinois Vaudeville Theatre over the entrance to the theatre.” The sign replicates the University of Illinois pennant in lights. It is twenty-three feet long and contains scores of incandescent light bulbs.
A new Edison motion picture machine was installed in January, 1908. It was “said to be one of the very best on the market.”
The Champaign Daily Gazette reported in the 28 May 1908 edition that the Illinois Theatre had been sold to the Varsity Amusement Company. The picture machine and seating were moved to the Varsity Theatre. The same story says the seller was P.T.B. Matheny, implying that at some point he had bought the theatre from Emil Loehr. The story reported that Mr. Matheny was running a successful, first-class little theatre, but he wanted to try another business.