Tell us why you love the Lake Theatre

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By Evan O'Brien

Content Manager

Celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Lake Theatre, Wednesday Journal and invite readers to share their fondest memories of Oak Park's historic movie theatre at

Use the comment board below and tell us about your most memorable movie, your first date or your favorite staff member at the Lake Theatre. Share your favorite photos of the Lake Theatre by emailing them to Readers who provide a valid email address when commenting will be entered into a drawing for two free tickets to the Lake Theatre. Two pairs of tickets will be given away each month, from May through December.

On the second Wednesday of each month, look for Lake Theatre's 75th Anniversary two-page spread in the paper as Wednesday Journal features reader comments along with archival stories and photos of the Lake Theatre.

Reader Comments

48 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Comment Policy

Jenny from Oak Park  

Posted: November 9th, 2011 9:00 PM

I worked as a candy girl at the Lake Theater back in 1974-75. I can remember carrying the film canisters up the stairs to the projection room. The projectionists used to play music before the movie and would play stuff the ushers and candy girls would bring in. We also could take home any popcorn at the end of the night so of course I always made extra.

Matt Baron from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 29th, 2011 3:31 PM

I love the Lake for a variety of reasons, but some reflections foremost in mind: -Its quintessentially classic appearance, inside and out, and its comfortable seating and overall setting. -Its caring, supportive local ownership. The Johnsons are excellent leaders, from making the space available for community groups and fundraisers to the $1 Wednesday morning showings of children's movies in the summer. -The great movie memories I've had in my 17 years going to the Lake. A recent, cherished one is seeing "It's A Wonderful Life" with my family last December. Happy 75th Birthday, Lake, and here's to many more birthday celebrations to be shared with the community!

G. Stringe from Frederick, CO  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 5:56 PM

I don't remember the movie but shortly after Christmas 1950 3 or 4 of us guys went to the Lake Theater one night and I had with me the Silvertone portable radio I got for Christmas. They weren't very small back then and gee whiz, the manager confiscated it on the way in and I had to pick it up on the way out. Would I have turned it on in the theater? Guess we'll never know.

Ralph from Orange County, California  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 5:14 PM

The Lake Theatre opened the year I was born in West Suburban Hospital. I remember a prank we used to play when we were in High School. One of our "gang" (not defined in the 50's as it is now)was a little guy named Jimmy. On a Saturday evening we would have Jimmy walk toward the Lake Theatre. We would pull up to the curb, jump out of the car, pretend to beat Jimmy up, pull him into the car and take off. A couple of times we made the news in the Oak Leaves. Ah youth!

Paul C. from Naperville  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 9:42 AM

I made-out there with Nancy G. for the first time!


Posted: August 25th, 2011 1:13 PM

I will always support locally owned theatres as long as they exist! One favorite memory is from my time in high school at OPRF. They used to run this ad for concessions with three penguins in a dune buggy riding through the desert. The little penguin would always say "Sprite for me!" in this high pitched nasal voice. My friends and I used to imitate it. Still do!


Posted: August 25th, 2011 8:14 AM

great movie memories..spent just about every Saturday at the Lake growing up in the 60's Happy 75!

Amy from Oak Park  

Posted: August 24th, 2011 6:52 PM

I have so many wonderful memories from the Lake - watching Meet the Beatles with my sister while sucking on a Sugar Daddy, which got all stuck in my hair; seeing Planet of the Apes with a 3rd grade friend but no parents - soooo scary ; my best friend crying through The Way We Were and losing her contact lenses; and, not to mention, all those first dates.....

Paul Brucato from South Elgin Ill.  

Posted: August 23rd, 2011 7:52 AM

I worked there as an usher for a short period of time making 90 cents an hour in the late sixties and got to see The Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines play for 6 weeks.Had a great time and enjoyed the pressure of working behind the candy counter during intermission trying to serve as many people as possible before the movie started up again.


Posted: August 23rd, 2011 6:32 AM

Though I went there quite a few times growing up, I remember best going there to see the Breakfast Club in 1985 with my high school girlfriend, then walking home hand in hand and being romantic on the way. The theatre was definitely a part of different stages in my youth and I am glad to see it still operating even though the Oak Park Mall has been through a lot of changes since I was a kid in the 70s.

Violet Aura  

Posted: August 22nd, 2011 8:56 PM

Just in case anyone isn't aware, the Patio theater has been renovated! That's one of those ornate theaters with balconies and the whole nine yards. I cannot wait to visit it and relive old memories. I think the last one I saw there was "Cat People" in 1982! LOL! Remember the Mercury Theater, the Lamar, and the Will Rogers?

Kathy from Downers Grove  

Posted: August 22nd, 2011 7:51 PM

I loved going to the Lake Theater in the 80s when I was in high school. I met my friends there regularly, and especially because it was something a highschooler could regularly afford. I loved when it was one big theater; that's something you don't see very often anymore. Once, when I was there with my boyfriend and his friend, we saw Emo Phillips there, attending a movie just like like the rest of us. We still talk about that to this day. (Anne K. E. is that you??) :)

Violet Aura  

Posted: August 22nd, 2011 6:17 PM

I remember going to see a revival showing of "Gone With The Wind" in 1981 when the theater hadn't yet gotten divided so it was a huge space. It was so fun seeing it on the big screen and there was even an intermission! I also loved when they used to show ART MOVIES!!! Now they just show what most other theaters show, which is a shame given our demographics in the area (well-edumacated).

Barb Wunder from Orlando  

Posted: August 22nd, 2011 5:09 PM

I loved the Lake because I remember tormenting the guy in the ticket booth on the way home from high school. We would ask him inane political questions and he would just laugh at us and take in stride. If he is still alive, I'm sorry!

anne from Oak Park  

Posted: August 1st, 2011 1:51 PM

I have been going to the Lake since I was at OPRF back in the 1980's...Who could beat the price of $1.50 for an almost first run movie!! I am now sharing this gem with my husband and kids!!


Posted: June 9th, 2011 9:21 PM

Has anyone who lives in OP ever owned the Lake theater?

Another OP resident  

Posted: June 9th, 2011 8:44 PM

Lake Street is Lake Street because of the Lake Theatre's presence and poise and we are a better village for it. Three cheers for Lake Theatre! hip hip HOORAY hip hip HOORAY hip hip HOORAAAAYYYY!!!

Kate Palm from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 9th, 2011 8:11 PM

I love the outdoor ticketbooth! There's something so fun and old school about standing in line under the marquee and ordering your ticket outside the building.

Carrie from Oak Park  

Posted: June 8th, 2011 11:06 PM

When we were ready to leave the city and shopping for a community we started to come out to Oak Park on Sundays to check out openhouses and a movie at The Lake. I'm not sure which really got us here but it's been 13 years and we love it here. Thanks Lake Theater for reeling us in.

Yasmeen Schuller from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 19th, 2011 4:38 PM

I can't think of a better place to go at midnight for the Harry Potter movies. It's the best place to watch a great movie surrounded by others that are just as excited as we are.

Patricia Krasniewski from Brookfield  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 2:47 AM

I love the Lake theatre for their comfortable seats and good popcorn,and the admission price is lower then other theatres.

Dana from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2011 11:25 AM

Best new movies with the best butter-your-own-and-dump-a-lot-of-white-cheddar-powder-on-top popcorn. Wash that down with a Cherry Coke and I'm a happy camper! ;)

Chris from Oak Park  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 9:51 AM

When you are spending $10 an hour for a babysitter, I love that it only takes me 5 mintues to get to a movie theater. I also enjoy the range of pictures it offers, from block busters to less well distributed films.

Chicago Art Deco Society from Chicago  

Posted: April 18th, 2011 12:44 PM

On behalf of the non-profit Chicago Art Deco Society we offer congratulations and kudos to Willis and Shirley Johnson - heroes in the art deco preservation community. They found a model of adaptive reuse that really works (including superior acoustics and technology) and have even integrated fragments of demolished theatres into the Lake. The design of this jewel clearly shows the influence of the Century of Progress and the advent of streamline moderne. Three cheers for Shirley and Willis!

Burt Blanchard from Oak Park  

Posted: April 16th, 2011 10:25 AM

Why I love the Lake Theater is it connects generations. My parents went to the Lake when they were growing up. They in turn took my sisters and me in the '80s when we were kids. Loved going there, THEN being treated to pies at Pop-n-Fresh (at Lake & Harlem what is now the Gap - precursor to Baker's Square), or if early enough, to Marshall Field's to look around. Now my wife and I take our kids, or their grandmother takes them. It's a connector for the ages. Viva la Lake Theater!


Posted: April 12th, 2011 4:15 PM

The sweetest, most diligent ushers in the world! While I nostalgic for the $2 show ($4 upstairs for the "arty stuff"), I adore this thriving business that contributes so much to the fabric and soul of the village.

Mary from Oak Park  

Posted: April 12th, 2011 4:11 PM

Over the past years, I've shared many movies at the Lake with husband, kids, friends and family, but my favorite thing about the Lake is that my son Mike met lovely Anna there when they both were working at the concession stand. They celebrated their 4th wedding anniversay last November.

Maria Durbin Cooper from Berwyn  

Posted: April 8th, 2011 3:38 PM

My husband and I went to see "Johhny English" at the Lake. Once we had gotten ourselves comfortably seated in the center of the theater, a group of teenage boys came over and sat down right in front of us. My spouse groaned, "Oh, no! They're going to talk all through the movie." I said, "Let's stay here and just try to enjoy the show, Dan." Well, once the film started, Dan and I were laughing so hard (and loud) that those boys got up and moved to another part of the theater! Thanks, Lake!

Molly Frank-Stewart from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2011 2:53 PM

Love Lake Theatre! When I first came to live in Oak Park in 1989 my then boyfriend (now husband)took me to Day in our Village. That's when they closed Lake Street and put out tables and chairs - we spent the day on Lake Street and casually walked the few steps over to the Lake Theatre to see a $2 movie! Been going ever since!

Dale Fitschen from oak park   

Posted: April 8th, 2011 2:32 PM

The Lake Theatre is our hometown neighborhood movie experience. Not one, but many experiences. It is close, it is in the middle of many pleasant places to eat, parking is easy, and the theater has films we and our friends want to get together to see, often, but not always. It is a regular and important part of our life here.

Mark in Virginia from Burke  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 4:00 PM

I remember attending the Lake Theater as a child, being put in the child care center in the basement when my family went to the movies. After a while I was able to see the really big screen and my first movie was The Sting. I continued to go to the Lake until 1997, when I moved to Virginia. Happy 75th Anniversary Lake Theater. May you have many more!

Barbara Wunder from Orlando  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 1:18 PM

My friend Terry Danuser and I used to pass the Lake every day on the way home from high school. We didn't have time to stop for movies, but we had great fun asking the guy in the ticket booth stupid questions like what he thought of Spiro Agnew. I'm pretty sure I saw Woodstock there on a Saturday.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 11:30 AM

@Tom Lynch from Oak Park. That actually made me tear up. God bless.

Tom Lynch from Oak Park  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 10:32 AM

Mary Kay Heintz and I went to the Lake Theatre on New Year's Eve, in the late 1940's. The movie really didn't matter that much, but it was "The Last of the Redmen," starring Michael O'Shea. Exactly at midnight, the film was stopped, the house lights came on, and someone from the theatre staff shouted "Happy New Year!" All we could afford then was the movie and some popcorn, but it was a perfect New Year's Eve. After 59 years of marriage to my movie partner, that memory is still fresh.

facebook shmacebook from Oak Park  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 7:51 AM

Reading this while reaching into a sack of 36 flavor jelly bellys and into my mouth - it's buttered popcorn - by a landslide!

Sally Noble from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 10:44 PM

Thatit's just a few blocks from my home. What can beat childhood memories of going to a classic "cinema" to see movies with family and friends? It's been nice to raise my kids within walking distance of Oak Park's downtown. It's also one of the few places in town that teenagers can visit for weekend evenings out.

OP Resident  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 10:43 PM

The great staff at the Lake Theater always make sure that patrons enjoy the experience. The annual "Predict the Oscars" contest is good fun. I really appreciate the theater policy that provides a refund to a customer who is disappointed with the film being shown. You've got to decide within the first 15 minutes but that was an easy call for us when we took our granddaughters to see a "Veggie Tales" movie. A real stinker!It's only happened that one time but I glad we had the option.

David Olson from Berwyn  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 10:26 PM

I love the marquee and the lights of the Lake Theater. They create an exciting, welcoming atmosphere in downtown Oak Park at night.

Chatka Ruggiero from River Forest  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:40 PM

As a child, I always chose the Lake Theatre over the Lamar Theatre (previously on South Marion St) because the Lake had double features and the Lamar showed only one picture at a time!!

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:58 PM

When my wife and I decided to find an apartment in Oak Park, the first place we went was 100 Forest Towers on Lake. They took us up to the community near the top floor and we looked down at Lake St. The only thing I remember spotting was the Lake Theater. Memories of the old days of theaters passed through are minds. We signed a lease that afternoon. The theater is an oasis -- service is great and the employees highly respectful. They are a reflection of Willis. He's a gift to OP.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:41 PM

Without the Lake Theatre this darn Village might as well turn out the lights.

Brent Borgerson from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:11 PM

Walkable Affordable Comfortable Clean Not rowdy Good films (movies) Good choices In a great area A great escape Friendly staff Clean rest rooms Hi-speed hand dryers I could go on and on,"Downtown" wouldn't be the same without "The Lake"!

Libbey Paul from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 6:49 PM

One of my very favorite things to do in the world is go to a movie -- even better to do it with my two children. And the Lake Theatre offers the optimal movie-going experience -- charm AND free refills! :-) Plus, I love the community events that the Lake supports -- it is a good neighbor.

Edgar Hiestand from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 5:36 PM

It was about 1940 and no car, so going to movies was a matter of walking from Ridgeland and Washington to Lamar, Southern, Ritz, even to Lil or West End. But I remember the time this 6-year-old was so tired after going to the Lake Theater one night that my dad carried me home on his shoulders. That is just an early memory followed by lots of Lake movies through school years and to today.

Mary from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 4:58 PM

They have the best popcorn in the world! The secret: coconut oil!

Luke Scottwalker from oak park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 4:54 PM

I love the Lake because Mr Johnson and his Business and Civic Council bretheren had the courage of their convictions in writing to oppose the D97 referendum, only to be threatened with boycotts by some "tolerant" Oak Parkers willing to cut off the noses of the producers in this town to spite their own faces.

Renee Zoltowski from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 4:48 PM

I love the Lake theater because I have lived here in Oak Park 22 yrs and love not having to travel far to see a good movie. It is clean and fresh. The unlimited popcorn is great and so convenient to make a night of it for dinner and a movie. My fondest memory is when I took my 5 kids to see Stepmom, since I am a "stepmom" to 3 of them. We had a great bonding experience.

Anne Bowen from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 4:38 PM

I have been enjoying films at the Lake for all 46 yrs I have lived in O.P. It's a wonderful place, not too big or intimidating but grand enough and immaculate. Everyone is friendly and the snacks are terrific too. Very often I will see a classic film on t.v. now and remember having seen it at the Lake. The Harry Potter films were so much better viewed on the big screen. My next hope is to see a 3-D film. The last one I saw was in 1953 when I was 12! I love cinema and also the Lake Theater!

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