The Historic Lincoln Theatre
Established in the fall of 1921 on the site of the Mansion House Hotel, the history of the Lincoln Theatre began with a handful of Vaudeville acts, an orchestra, and a silent movie. But there’s a reason it’s now called the Historic Lincoln Theatre; it quickly rose to prominence as one of the premier entertainment destinations for all of Southern Illinois and has remained so for nearly a century. We see something familiar in the Lincoln Theatre, the tireless work of their owners and the people who help bring things to life. From the organists who bring a classic feel to the theatre to its recent refurbishing, it’s a true treasure of Belleville.
Famous Faces on The Stage
The Lincoln has not only played host to some of the greatest films ever made on its central screen, its stage has been home to some up-and-coming acts that would go on to achieve worldwide acclaim.
- In the early 1920s, a young Ginger Rogers performed on the stage, presumably wowing the crowds with her grace and fancy footwork.
- Around the same time, a young comedy trio, the Nightingales, took the stage. While it’s unknown how they were received, it’s safe to assume that the group, who later changed their name to the Marx Brothers, had fans rolling in the aisles.
Over the years, the theater has been acquired and sold to various organizations, first Fox, then National General, and finally Mann Theaters before landing with Richard Wright in 1980, who has been painstakingly restoring the venue to its prior glory since.
The renovated theater now boasts twin auditoriums where the open balcony was located, larger seats with more legroom, and a stunning new vertical marquee to replace one destroyed by a violent storm in the 1980s.
The Lincoln, previously only a home for second-run movies and family-friendly entertainment now hosts first-run acts, live performances, children’s concerts, and is home to the Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra – making it not only a hub for entertainment but perhaps one of the most well-rounded venues in the area.
Stop by for a Visit
As renovations progress, the Lincoln Theatre continues to act as an entertainment hub for music and movie lovers from Smithton and the surrounding areas. Even movie lovers from as far away as East St. Louis are drawn in by silent film showings that feature some of the original organ music played live for added effect.
If watching the latest flicks is part of your weekend plan – or you just want to experience date night in this stunning vintage venue – drop by the Historic Lincoln Theatre and enjoy a little of Abe’s Gourmet Popcorn, you’ll be glad you made the trip. And be sure to check out other local favorites, like the best restaurants in O’Fallon, IL!