Castle Theatre

209 E. Washington Street,
Bloomington, IL 61704

Unfavorite 6 people favorited this theater

Showing 1 - 25 of 37 comments

DavidZornig on July 30, 2020 at 8:10 pm

Moving Picture World Book about original Castle Opening.

DavidZornig on July 30, 2020 at 5:16 pm

1917 photo added courtesy Kenneth R. Davis‎.

DavidZornig on September 5, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Photo added. Castle Theater concession stand February 16, 1953. ISU Milner Archives photo.

rivest266 on July 10, 2015 at 4:11 pm

January 24th, 1916 grand opening ad in photo section.

whtesoxfan56 on November 19, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Wow, I remember the renovation of this theater occurring and that it only had just reopened, back in my brief Illinois State University days in the mid-2000s! Also recall reading about the church that had started to use the Castle, after I sadly(due to grades) was forced to drop out of Illinois State. Great to hear it’s being used as a music venue, as of now.

DavidDymond on February 19, 2013 at 12:17 pm

CLARENCE IRVIN was the main theatre operator in Bloomington, Illinois and all of his houses were in partnership with Balaban and Katz and later ABC Paramount!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 18, 2013 at 10:24 pm

This house was not the first Bloomington theater to have the name Castle. An earlier house of that name was under construction in 1904, when it was a subject of a petition from its owner that was read at the November 4 meeting of the Bloomington City Council. Mr. J. G. Gillingham was petitioning the Council to consider lowering the license fee for his theater, which he said would present vaudeville at low prices. Bloomington’s license fee for “Opera Houses” was $200 a year.

The petition notes that the Castle Theatre would be located in a remodeled building at the corner of Washington and East Streets, though it doesn’t specify which corner. The Majestic Theatre would open at the southwest corner of that intersection in 1910, and the Castle was still in operation at that time, so it was one of the other corners. I’ve been unable to discover whether or not it continued operating under a different name after this Castle Theatre opened in 1916.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 31, 2011 at 3:56 am

The Castle Theatre is still open as a live music venue. There is an official web site, and the house has at least one event per week booked through January, with other events scheduled into March.

The February 19, 1916, issue of The Moving Picture World ran an article about the opening of the Castle Theatre, which can be read in this Google Books scan. The theater was built by C. U. Williams, a Bloomington businessman who, along with being involved in various other enterprises, was a well-known publisher of picture postcards.

The Castle Theatre was part of the headquarters building of C. U. Williams & Son, and was originally operated under lease by William R. Lyon (or Lyons) and Delmar Schnepp. In 1923 the Castle was taken over by Clarence Irvin, who had been operating other theaters in Bloomington for more than a decade.

Many sources on the Internet claim that the Castle was originally a Balaban & Katz house, but it appears that B&K only became involved in the operation later. I’ve found references to the Castle being a B&K house by 1927. It was still being operated by B&K in 1949 according to this list on the Balaban & Katz Foundation’s web site.

bnrunner on December 27, 2010 at 11:28 pm

The theatre has been sold and the new owners are using it as a live music venue. Most of the acts are of the alternative music variety.

kencmcintyre on July 26, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Here is a February 2008 article about the church that uses the theater building:

saegerjon on July 4, 2007 at 8:08 pm

Last week the Castle Theater had a foreclosure auction. The bank which held the loan purchased the theater for roughly $250,000 with the intent to sell it. The Theater is easily worth double or triple that amount. There was some talk of converting the upper floors into condos but no mention of that had been made in quite a while.

kencmcintyre on May 19, 2007 at 5:08 pm

Here is a 1/12/07 article that follows up on the possible sale of the Castle:

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on January 11, 2007 at 4:36 am

I believe the Castle Theatre opened with a seating capacity of 1,000. Through the 1940’s it is listed as being an 889 seat theatre operated by Paramount Pictures Inc. through their subsidairy John Balaban. The 1950 edition of Film Daily Yearbook lists it with a seating capacity of 893.

Patsy on January 5, 2007 at 3:15 pm

/theaters/2953/ Grand Theatre/Westfield NY

Patsy on January 5, 2007 at 3:08 pm

Lost Memory: Thanks as this marquee is very nice especially with the white lights underneath. It’s always fun to walk underneath a marquee like this and just….look up! My hometown theatre, the Grand had lights like this except it was a curved marquee..sure wish I could still walk underneath those lights today, but its only a memory now as the theatre was demolished in the mid 90’s. I didn’t live in the area at the time, but if I had I would have protested with signs and gotten signatures to save it!

Patsy on January 4, 2007 at 6:59 am

Perhaps the “brew and view” concept didn’t sit well with the folks who used it as a church. Nobody wants to sit in church on Sunday a.m. and smell the brew from Saturday night.

Patsy on January 4, 2007 at 6:58 am

After reading the above article I can’t figure out why the theatre can’t make it if it is being used as a church now, too. This theatre dates back to the early 1900’s and deserves to remain open and especially after a major renovation.

saegerjon on January 4, 2007 at 6:33 am

Unfortunately, the Castle Theater is closed and the future of theater is now uncertain. The Pantagraph – the local newspaper in Bloomington has an article on the Castle Theater’s closing which can be found here: View link

I sincerely hope that Ben Slotky has other succesful ventures here in Bloomington. He seems to have a great personality that is needed here in Bloomington.

MarkNYLA on October 9, 2006 at 2:53 am

Wilson “Bob” Tucker, former Castle Theatre projectionist, passed away Friday 10/6/06. Bob was also a stagehand and electrician for touring shows that came to Bloomington/Normal. He was also a pioneering and hugely respected author of mystery and science fiction novels in the 40s 50s and 60s, and is credited with coining the term “space opera” as it relates to large, sweeping science fiction sagas like “Star Wars”. He was living in St. Petersburg, Florida at the end. R I P, Bob …

hinmanjf on September 5, 2006 at 3:34 pm


I love the Castle! But, I tried to have a party for my son there last year and it was a mess, that resulted in me making a last minute location change, even after invitation were done. I am very nervous I will have a repeat of last year. And, already had told several people we were having the party there…can you help me?

Thanks so much,

saegerjon on July 2, 2006 at 2:05 pm

I just attended my first movie at the Castle theater. It is GREAT!!!! I really don’t know where to begin. Very reasonable prices, beautiful theater, VERY comfortable couches, free refills on drinks – and they don’t cost $5 per drink, the bathroom has the sound of the movie playing, food tastes good and the server brings it to your seat / couch.

The sound seems to need some improvement and it was actually a little distracting at times but it certainly would not keep me away from enjoying another movie there soon. Most of the movies there seem to be targeted towards young kids and families. I hope they continue to show movies aimed at a little older audience.

I hope people continue to support this place. It REALLY is a local treasure!

RaneyOnline on May 6, 2006 at 2:44 am

Is there a formula for knowing what location could support a movie theater? With so many MegaPlex locations going up…I would like to bring cinema back to some smaller towns. I’m not sure how large a community would need to be to support a twin screen complex or how far away from another theater.

kencmcintyre on February 9, 2006 at 3:37 pm

Here is another pre-restoration photo:
View link

JimWalch on October 7, 2005 at 10:15 am

Ben: Would like to talk to you about your restoration. We are getting ready to restore the Southtown in Springfield Illinois and would like to hear about problems/solutions. Looks like you have figured it all out as it looks great!

Patsy on September 27, 2005 at 4:38 am

Ben: I just read your July 2001 post about being the current owner so would like to know how the cafe venue at the Castle is working out. I will say that I’m a purist, at heart, and enjoy seeing the theatres brought back to originality if at all possible.