Those anticipating opening day of McHenry’s downtown theater are going to have to hold out a bit longer.
Originally expected Jan. 15, the opening day has been pushed back a few days to Jan. 18 as the theater – closed since 2014 – undergoes its finishing touches. The films “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Paddington 2” will be shown on opening day, with first showings starting at around 5 p.m., Scott Dehn, the theater’s operational director, said this week.
Meanwhile, interest in the theater, located downtown near McHenry Riverwalk at 1208 N. Green St., has been overwhelming, Dehn said. “I had to almost abandon my personal Facebook because of all the questions, ‘How can we get tickets? Can you save us seats?’ ” he said.
“I know everybody’s really excited to be one of the first in there,” he said. “I think actually seeing a movie is secondary to people interested in getting in there and seeing the new construction.”
As for those many questions, yes, advanced tickets will be available, likely by this weekend, through the theater’s website at www.mchenrydowntowntheater.com. Still in the works, the website is expected to go fully live this weekend, Dehn said, at which point movie times, tickets and such will link up with larger movie sites, such as Fandango.com.
Tickets will cost $9 for adults for showings after 5:30 p.m. and $7 for matinees as well as children ages 11 and younger, seniors and military. People will be able to choose assigned seats, including recliners and rockers, in each of the theater’s three screening rooms.
Only the two larger screening rooms, with capacities for 175 and 155 seats respectively, will be open on opening day, while a third smaller screening room (with a capacity for 65 to 70 seats) is expected to be open a couple weeks later, Dehn said.
Along with recliners and rockers, that smaller screening room is expected to contain C-shaped couches in the back with tables in the middle for people to order food and dine during the movie, he said. Alcohol will not be permitted into the screening rooms, but that is an option to possibly be looked at in the future, Dehn said, as he and others involved reevaluate the theater’s offerings.
Along with buying typical movie snacks, moviegoers will be able to order from a scaled-down version of the D.C. Cobb’s menu. The Crystal Lake restaurant is opening a second location in the building, and Dehn said he hopes to time the theater’s official grand opening with the restaurant opening, expected a couple weeks after Jan. 18.
“We want to do something big,” he said, adding plans for a grand opening ceremony have yet to be finalized.
In the works since last February, the theater building underwent an estimated $1.5 million worth of work – about $1.2 million for the building and a few hundred thousand more in build-out and equipment. It’s been a long road with delays.
“It’s literally night and day. Walking through there, I cannot believe it’s the same building,” said Dehn, whose first job was as a doorman at the theater years ago.
“This is the theater I grew up with,” he said. “To have it come full circle is amazing. … It’s not just a theater, it’s beautiful. It’s come together so nicely.”
It will operate under a community-owned model, with community members and business owners, including Dehn, the owner of McHenry’s Outdoor Theater, and McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett, investing in the redevelopment.
Originally The Empire Theatre when it opened in 1919, according to reports, the theater was renamed the Colony Theatre in the 1930s before burning in the 1950s. It was rebuilt back then and reopened, but had been shut down since 2014.
A custom-made LED sign has been installed on the front of the building to feature mural paintings of historic McHenry in a filmstrip design.
“We wanted to be a little bit nostalgic, but have that modern touch and keep that old feeling the original theater had,” Dehn said.