The Lake Theater in Oak Park

Photo of The Lake Theater in Oak Park, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz

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The Lake Theater

1020 West Lake, Oak Park, Illinois, Oak Park 60301
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The Lake Theater is a throwback to the days when going to the movie theater was a special occasion, not just a way to kill time. The people of Oak Park are lucky to have such a cinematic masterpiece in the heart of their downtown district. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that the theater’s glory comes from its preservation or restoration, because many details of the theater are not original to this building. But they all add a piece to the magic that once was the movie-going experience. Originally constructed in the Art Moderne style, the Lake bears the streamlining typical of other buildings its age. The marquee’s rounded corners are highlighted by neon while large blue neon letters climb into the sky like a beacon to late-night film buffs. Like nearly all theaters constructed in the golden age of film, the Lake fell into a state of disrepair. Fortunately, in the 1980’s it was purchased by the Classic Cinemas corporation which decided to repair, and even expand the property. Many elements were restored, some replaced, and some re-created from scratch. Classic Cinemas also brought in Art Deco elements from other cinemas to enhance the Lake. The result is a magical transformation that makes a simple night out at the movies a special experience. More theater chains should care this much.

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