HISTORY OF THE LORRAINE
The theatre idea was discussed in December of 1920 by Elijah J. Boorde and his son, John Rosslyn Boorde, owners of the Hoopeston Telephone Company. Once the decision was made to build, the actual groundbreaking did not begin, however, until April 1921. All work was completed by February the following year and the Lorraine Theatre opened her doors on Monday, March 6, 1922, with a seating capacity of 800 seats. The silent film The Great Moment with Gloria Swanson and Milton Sills was the first film shown. Music for that film, and others that followed, was performed by three and four piece orchestras during those early years. It was said to have cost approximately $100,000 to build and furnish.
One of the highlights of Arthur B.McCollum’s ownership of the Lorraine was that he was arrested on December 8, 1926, for showing a Sunday movie, which happened to be against the City Ordinances. He lost his case and was fined $10 and cost by the City of Hoopeston for showing that movie. McCollum, undaunted, later appealed the case to the circuit court, however, the court sided with the City of Hoopeston and McCollum lost again and was fined an additonal $100 and court costs. He did eventually win the ordinance change.
The first talking film debuted in the Lorraine Theatre on January 1930, three years after “talkees” made their first appearance. The theatre came to life as The Girl from Woolworths staring Alice White and Charles Delaney played. The Geneva Organ later replaced the orchestras for extra entertainement. Other changes were coming to the LorraineTheatre as plans and updates for a remodel was scheduled for 1937. Alex Claessen of Chicago designed the Lorraine Theatre into an Art Deco style motiff, adding men and women’s restrooms, a balcony, a lighted marquee outside and donated a canvas for the lounge area where the present concession is located today.
The remodel had a few problems during 1937 when Danville union leaders decided to organize a building trades council in Hoopeston while the work was progressing on the Lorraine. After several clashes in the streets in front of the Lorraine Theatre, the Mayor ordered Hoopeston police officers to escort the carpenters safely across the offending picket lines, ending the union strike and all hopes of a union in Hoopeston.
Dolby sound speakers, an eight channel Sony Dynamic Digital Sound system, a new roof and other changes were added after 1988 when Greg Boardman and Jim Franklin became owners. Boardman added a second theatre in 1998, Lorraine II in the 200 block of East Main St., now renamed the Little Lorraine. The Lorraine doors closed for the final time in April of 2012 due to financial difficulties and it went into foreclosure. MainSource Bank put the theatres up for sale in 2013.
In late July that year, a group of interested residents came together to save the Lorraine. By August the Save The Lorraine Foundation was formed, a 501c3 application filed, bylaws, a board and officers elected and the long journey to restore the Lorraine Theatre for the City of Hoopeston began. It was not without its traumatic moments in those early months when the organization learned the theatres had been sold. The up side to this news was that a former Hoopeston student, Fontella Fraley Krout, bought it and was donating it to the group. Her wonderful generosity is greatly appreciated by the members of the Save The Lorraine Foundation.
Today the Lorraine Theatre is open for live events although renovations are still ongoing as fundraising permits and the Little Lorraine is still showing movies. There’s still a lot of work to be done in the future but, in the meantime, the Lorraine Theatre will show live events to aid in the fundraising for the future renovations. As an extra little tidbit, there are several legends about the name of the theatre that people tell. One is that it was named after someone’s mother and the second legend is that John Rosslyn Boorde named it after the town in France, Alsace-Lorraine, where he was stationed during World War I. (History by Carol Hicks)
LORRAINE THEATRE TIMELINE
April 1921 -Elijjah J. Boorde and son John Rosslyn Boorde, Hoopeston Telephone Company, broke ground to build the Lorraine in April 1921 on the northeast corner of East Main Stree and Third Street. Cost: $100,000.
March 6, 1922 – Grand opening -silent film The Great Moment with Gloria Swanson and Milton Sills. The opening night also included Pathe News, “showing the latest great events of the world in pictures,” a comedy entitled For Lands Sake and a five-piece orchestra.
October 1922 – John Randolph Thompson bought the lease. Thompson of Chicago, a wealthy restauranter in Chicago, was formerly from Fithian, Illinois. He was the brother of Elijah Boorde’s wife, Anna B. Thompson Boorde.
Aug. 1924 – Polka Bros., Frank and Martin Polka of Maywood, bought the lease. They held it until March 1, 1925, when Arthur Bingham McCollum, Dwight, and Tracy L. Orr, Gibson City, bought the lease.
March 1, 1925 – McCollum and Orr held the theatre together at least through 1927.
Dec 7, 1926 – Arthur B. McCollum, arrested for showing a movie on Sunday. Hoopeston City ordinance, at that time, prohibited showing movies or roller skating on Sundays. McCollum wanted to test the law about movies on Sunday and said it was unconstitutional. He was fined in Hoopeston $10 and cost, appealed the case to Danville, lost, was fined $100, and appealed again. Eventually he was able to show Sunday movies.
January 7, 1930 – First talking picture shown in Hoopeston Lorraine Theatre. First movie The Girl From Woolworths starring Alice White and Charles Delaney.
October 15, 1937 – Complete renovation. Grand reopening of Lorraine Theatre with new marquee. Alex Claessen of Chicago, designed the Art Deco style. Playing that day was You Can’t Have Everything with Alice Raye, Ritz Brothers and Don Ameche and, as an additional attraction, radio favorites, The Venetian Trio, performing.
December 31, 1962 – Arthur J. Nelson signs papers to purchase the lease of the Lorraine Theatre.
October 1971 – Note made out to Arthur J. Nelson to purchase Lorraine Theatre from McCollum’s heirs. Note paid in full February 1976. It was on the assessor’s records in 1975 as Nelson’s.
October 1987 – Greg Boardman and Jim Franklin buy the Lorraine Theatre and began restoration work. 1988 added Sony Dynamic Digital Sound to Lorraine.
September 18, 1998 – Lorraine II or Little Lorraine opened it’s doors.
May 24, 2007 – Kevin Alvarez of Burlington, Wisconsin bought the Lorraine.
October 2008 – Josh Caudle of California bought the Lorraine. Closed the doors in April 2012. Theatres went into foreclosure with MainSource Bank.
September 2013 – Fontella Fraley Krout, former alumni, bought the Lorraine. She donated it to the Save The Lorraine Foundation in last December 2013.
December 27, 28, 29, 2013 – First Movies shown at Little Lorraine – Fast & Furious 6 and Goonies.
2014 – Renovation in process of the Lorraine. Movies shown at Little Lorraine – some upgrades – Furnace & air, bathroom, lighting along seats, small stage, painting inside and out.
SAVE THE LORRAINE FOUNDATION
The Save the Lorraine Foundation is a nonprofit organization set up to save the Historic Lorraine Theatre in downtown Hoopeston. The Lorraine fell into bankruptcy in winter of 2013 and efforts by the Main Source bank to sell it were not successful. A small group of people gathered the last of July 2013 and called for a meeting of those interested in saving the Lorraine. The meeting was held in the lobby of the Lorraine with approximately 30 people present. The organization was formed with officers elected and a mission plan. The ownership of then Lorraine became a realty when a long-time resident of Hoopeston and Vermilion county purchased the two building that comprised the Lorraine and donated them to the foundation.
The Foundation has spread its wings and acquired other Historic buildings in the downtown area to preserve our cultural heritage. It is important to Hoopeston because it gives hope of revitalizing the community by bring back various forms of business and entertainment.