The era of “modern” theater began at DeKalb in 1923 when the DeKalb Theater was built on Lincoln Highway in the Montgomery Ward Store. This was an up to date motion picture house with a large pipe organ.
But, the advent of “Sound” pictures heralded in the development of The Egyptian Theatre and the Fargo Theatre in 1929. The first drive in movie theater was the DeVal Drive-In Theater on Sycamore Road in 1948.
There’s not a lot of information available for the Fargo Theatre.
It is a sister to the Fargo theater in Geneva both built by Judge Fargo. The Art Deco building over time has been used as a Theater, Roller Rink, Storage and Retail. The second floor holds a number of apartment units and there was a $65,000 project in the 1990’s to renovate the living space. In 2007 the Theater’s Marque sign, which was a typical design was taken down.
One of the things I love about photographing towns like DeKalb is if you are careful to avoid people and cars the result is an image you can’t really distinguish in time. The following is the same shot as above but I think you’d be hard pressed to know it’s a current image.
The Egyptian Theater is a little easier to find information on. Also built in 1929, the architect was Elmer F. Behrens. The theater is of Art Deco design and is 1 of only 6 Egyptian Theaters that were built in the US. The theater was put on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1978. It is privately owned and is still being operated. You can check their web site for a current schedule. A more complete summary of it’s history can be found on the web site’s “About” page
The first film on the Egyptian’s giant screen was “The Hottentot,” an “all talking” film about horse racing; general admission was 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children. The live vaudeville acts generally were reserved for weekends between movie showings.
Ownership of the Egyptian changed hands over the years, but for a majority of its commercial life, the building was owned and operated by the Thomas Valos family, who ran a chain of Midwest motion-picture houses.