Savoy 16

GQT Savoy 16
Phoenix Theatres - Savoy 16

232 West Burwash Avenue, Savoy, Illinois

Opened 19 December 1990

Robert Goodrich, owner and CEO of Goodrich Quality Theatres, Inc., announced that construction was to begin soon on the company’s new 10-screen theater complex at a press conference and groundbreaking ceremony on Monday, 30 April 1990.  Goodrich said he expected the theater complex to be open by Thanksgiving.  His plan was to present the best Hollywood films as well as many top art and foreign films.  The Savoy 10 was to have three full-time and 30 part-time employees.1

Michigan based Goodrich Quality Theaters worked with the MHB Design Group to design the 35,696 square foot complex costing more than $2.4 million, with an additional $800,000 allotted for equipment.2 

The complex combines ten theaters under one roof with a shared 6,400 square foot lobby.  There would be a central ticket counter and a separate 84-foot concession counter.  A floor manager’s station, a new concept in theater management, would be included.  The lobby décor would feature curved ceiling bulkheads, ceramic tiles, and neon graphics accented in deep colors.3

Each auditorium would be equipped with rocking chair seats, screen title-curtains, and Smart sound.  Six were to have Smart Stereo Surround sound with JBL speakers.4

Parkland Prospectus_05031990th_pg08_10-p

Floor plan of the Savoy 10 as printed in the Parkland Prospectus, 3 April 1990, page 8.

The auditorium capacity ranges from 150 to 350 people.  The two largest will have the capability to screen 70 mm films with Dolby SR sound.

It is not uncommon in construction projects for there to be delays in receiving materials or for tasks to take longer than anticipated.  The Savoy 10 construction experienced delays and thus did not make its original projected opening of Thanksgiving when most of the holiday films open.6

A two-day grand opening took place on Wednesday and Thursday, 19 and 20 December 1990.7

TNG_12181990tu_pgA-14_Savoy ad opening_e

Grand opening ad from

The Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette,

Tuesday 18 December 1990, page A-14.

Bill McMannis, Goodrich Quality Theaters vice president and general manager, said the expansion is also a sign that business has remained strong despite the Beverly Cinemas opening in late 1995.  He went on to say they will take the opportunity to make additional renovations and upgrades.  He said that long-term, Goodrich has looked at plans for as many as 20 screens, but that’s not currently being considered.9

Work was to start the next week on the two-screen addition to the Savoy 14 according to the 2 October 1997 story in The News-Gazette.  “It’s been one of the greatest things for the village of Savoy,” Mayor Robert McCleary said of the theater complex following the village board’s unanimous approval of an amendment to Goodrich’s special use permit that cleared the way for construction to begin.  Likewise, village board member Ted Davis was quite happy.  He had been skeptical of the theater’s success back when it opened in 1990.  Four additional screens were added in 1993.  Now it was starting its second expansion.  Bill McMannis, vice president and general manager of Goodrich Quality Theaters, said the Savoy theaters currently do the company’s second-best business, behind a Chicago area complex.  “We’re hoping this (the expansion) puts it back at number one,” McMannis said.10 

Construction on the latest addition would start on Monday, 6 October 1997, with the new theaters expected to be open for business by the middle of February 1998.  The complex would remain open throughout the construction period, although individual auditoriums would be closed when work was being done in them.  Goodrich took the opportunity to renovate the building and upgrade four of its existing auditoriums.  New stadium seating was added to two of the auditoriums to create better sight lines.  The seats in the back half of a theater are raised with each row a step up from the row in front of it.  Both new theaters will have stadium seating.  Goodrich installed new carpeting, painted, and did general repairs throughout the building.  The new theaters were built on the north side of the complex where a parking lot was located.  Replacement parking was constructed on the south side of the building.11 

Grand opening ad from

The Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette,

Thursday 20 December 1990, page C-11. 

Feb 9 2008 0024 ed.jpg

The Savoy 16 as it appeared 9 February 2008.  Copyright by Perry C. Morris

An article in the 25 January 2012 edition of The News-Gazette announced that Goodrich Quality Theatres, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was considering a renovation of its Savoy 16 complex.  Area manager Heath Thomas said that after more than twenty years it’s time to renovate.  He stressed that renovation plans were still conceptual, but could include adding an auditorium, converting an existing auditorium to a community room, putting stadium seating in auditoriums that don’t already have it and adding rest rooms.  The complex’s smallest auditorium would be the most difficult to convert to stadium seating, so it might be converted to a community room.  According to Thomas, Goodrich has already made a “substantial investment” in new digital projection systems, and there are plans to add another 3-D screen.12 

The News-Gazette reported more details on 1 July 2012.  Goodrich Quality Theatres regional manager Heath Thomas revealed that the new big screen would be an IMAX auditorium, purpose-built to meet IMAX specifications, on the south end of the complex.13 

The IMAX Corporation developed its namesake IMAX projection system that makes possible images of greater size and resolution than conventional projection systems.14  The IMAX pictures are taller and have more content than the traditional format.  The IMAX theater in Savoy will be one of the largest in the United States.  According to Martin Betz, Goodrich Quality Theaters chief operating officer, IMAX theaters cost roughly $1.5 million more than traditional theaters.  He feels it’s worth it as “IMAXs do quite well.  It’s a premium experience.”15

At the time, there were more than 500 IMAX theaters around the world.  The closest to Champaign-Urbana were in Peoria, the Indianapolis area, the Chicago metropolitan area, and Edwardsville.  The article also reported that Carmike Cinemas intended to add an auditorium with a big screen to its Beverly 18 in north Champaign.16 

An existing auditorium would be converted to provide more restrooms and a birthday party room.  The concessions area would be reconfigured, moving from the middle of the lobby over to one side of the lobby.  The building’s exterior would also be renovated.  Work was expected to begin in August with completion anticipated in mid-January.17 

A story in the 6 September 2012 edition of The News-Gazette reported that the village of Savoy’s Zoning Board of Appeals approved Goodrich Quality Theater’s request for a building height variance of up to 55 feet tall which covers the expected 50 foot height of the IMAX portion of the building.  It was also thought that due to the proximity of the Savoy 16 to the University of Illinois Willard Airport, approval from the Federal Aviation Administration might be necessary.  Upon completion of the engineering work, it was determined that approval was not required.18 

Goodrich Quality Theatres debuted its new IMAX theater at the Savoy 16 on 3 May 2013, with “Iron Man 3: An IMAX 3-D Experience.”  The IMAX auditorium has a seating capacity of 500 people.  The screen is 80 feet wide and nearly 50 feet tall.  Other IMAX 3-D movies scheduled for the summer include: “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” “Man of Steel,” “Pacific Rim” and “300: Rise of an Empire.”19 

Remodeling at the Savoy 16 had been ongoing since November and its new box office and concession stands had already opened.  The refurbished complex also has meeting rooms for private parties or birthdays.  One of the auditoriums will feature D-BOX motion-effects seats that move side to side, forwards and backwards, and up and down.20 

The Savoy 16 closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, as did the other theaters and many businesses.  Some months later, Goodrich Quality Theatres filed for bankruptcy, casting doubt on whether the Savoy 16 would reopen when the pandemic restrictions were lifted. 21

Phoenix Theatres

Phoenix Theatres Entertainment LLC, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, got its start in 2001 following several theater-chain bankruptcies.  Landlords who knew nothing about running theaters were looking for operators to run their theater properties.  This led to the company’s name: like the phoenix, the dark theaters would rise again.  Over the years, they have managed over 40 theaters, some since the company’s beginning and some for a few years.  Phoenix currently operates 14 theaters in 11 states. 1

The Savoy 16 building is owned by EPR Properties of Kansas City, Missouri. 2

It had been announced in December, 2020, that Phoenix Theatres would be the new operator of the Savoy 16. 3

Phil Zacheretti, Phoenix Theatres CEO, was optimistic about the future of the movie business despite bankruptcies and the increasing popularity of streaming.  He also saw an opportunity in the Savoy 16 telling The News-Gazette: “It was the number-one theater in the market for many, many years.  It’s a good theater.  It’s very functional and has the IMAX auditorium and the only recliner-seat auditorium in the market.  When we are able to open, and when the industry comes back, we’re very confident it will go back to being the most popular theater in the area.” 4

Phoenix Theatres were anxious to reopen as soon as possible, but factors beyond their control would play a role.  One factor was state CIVID-19 regulations.  Management hoped to be open by Christmas 2020 to take advantage of the anticipated theatrical release of “Wonder Woman 1984” and “News of the World” starring Tom Hanks. 5

Phoenix Theatres announced on 19 January that Friday 22 January 2021 was its target reopening date made possible by a change in the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.  That meant there was a lot of work to do in a very short time.  The two big items were health department inspections and some servicing that needed to be done on the IMAX screen. 6

Chris Gehring, Phoenix’s senior vice president of operations, commented to The News-Gazette in March that business had been slow since the Savoy 16 reopened in January, especially with studios continuing to push back their big releases.  He also expected business to pick up as more people get vaccinated.  The News-Gazette quoted Gehring: Business is “better than we thought here; the community’s been great – but it’s still not anywhere near where we need to be.  We’re not worried.  We’ll get there.” 7

Liquor License

The Savoy Village Trustees had rejected a request from Goodrich Quality Theatres in 2019 with just two votes in favor.  The main concern was underage drinking.  New operators, Phoenix Theatres, petitioned the Trustees to create a theatre-class liquor license and argued at a Wednesday, 3 March 2021 study session that experience at their other theatres they could easily put protocols in place that would prevent underage drinking.  They also pointed out the need to be competitive with the AMC Champaign 13 which had served alcohol since around 2012.  Despite some continued concern, the Village Board voted 5-1 in favor of the creation of a theater-class liquor license. 1

The Savoy village board gave final approval of a liquor license for theaters on Wednesday, 17 March 2021.

The theater worked to determine the exact location of the bar and get the necessary electrical and plumbing installed.  As soon as the village and state licenses were obtained, they planned to start selling bottled beer and wine, and then expand to draft beer, craft beer, and a wider liquor selection. 2