The Castle Theatre opened in Bloomington, IL in 1916, and it was the premier movie theater in the Midwest. A history of openings and closings has culminated in the modern Castle Theatre: a music venue that brings some of the most popular artists to Central Illinois.
The stunning venue was a jewel in Bloomington’s crown, drawing visitors from far and wide eager to take in the ornate plasterwork, state-of-the-art technology, and prestige that came from being seen at such an exclusive locale.Guests were able to relax and view silent movies featuring the legendary performers of their time, like the brilliant Mary Pickford and roguish Douglas Fairbanks, and later enjoy talkies with actors like Humphrey Bogart and Greta Garbo.
For decades, The Castle was the heart of the city with its high-profile features and stylish design, but like all good things, its run came to an end. The theater was closed in 1988, sitting mostly unused for more than 15 years.
In 2003, new owners purchased The Castle and renovated it, operating it for a time as a “Brew and View” first-run movie house where visitors could enjoy a beverage and some light food with their movie. Sadly, this venture proved unsuccessful and, in 2007, the venue closed again — but it wouldn’t stay closed for long.
Fortunately, in 2008, the Bloomington Arts District began to undergo a renaissance of sorts, with new businesses moving in, restoring vintage buildings and breathing new life into one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in Illinois. The Castle was one of those fortunate buildings, recently completing a $1.5 million dollar renovation to return the venue to its former glory as the premier entertainment destination in downtown Bloomington.
Today, The Castle draws visitors from hundreds of miles around, eager to hear the top names in independent entertainment, including the likes of Reel Big Fish, Iron & Wine, Ani DiFranco, and local favorites like Chicago Farmer.
After more than a century, The Castle Theatre remains a local treasure, offering a family-friendly gathering place for music and art lovers, as well as those who are enamored with the architecture of days gone by. Why not stop by and catch a show? If you’d like to make a day of it, sit down to a relaxing lunch with friends beforehand at a nearby Normal, IL restaurant.
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