Area native aims to bring entertainment back to Villa Grove theater
VILLA GROVE — A new owner is bringing new life back to a historic theater.
Jim Whitmore, who recently purchased the building in Villa Grove, is restoring the theater to a multipurpose entertainment venue, which will offer live music, educational programs and theater performances, as well as movies on a single screen. The name of the theater will also be restored to the original name of The Star Theater.
The theater has been closed since 2011, when it operated as a discount first-run movie theater with double screens.
Whitmore, who grew up near Villa Grove, recently returned to the area from Virginia and saw the theater as a unique opportunity to make a difference in the community.
"It will be a family-driven venue. I want to focus on kids and the gift of time," said Whitmore, a former special-education teacher.
During the day, Whitmore hopes to work with local school districts to provide educational programming for all students and especially special-needs children and their families. These programs will be offered free of charge or for a small fee to the schools and the students.
"I want to give them a chance to grow in so many ways," he said.
To financially support the educational programs, Whitmore has been busy making contacts with local entertainers to provide a variety of evening entertainment shows. David Gaddis has been brought on board to be the venue director and will coordinate entertainment offerings for the theater.
Whitmore says it's all about, "How do we embrace the space?"
He also hopes the city and surrounding area will embrace the new venture. Prior to taking over the building, Whitmore has been meeting with other business owners and community leaders to discuss partnerships that will benefit the community and the theater.
His plan is to also bring food and adult beverages to patrons of the theater. With the approval of a liquor license, a small bar serving beer and wine will be available along with food prepared by local restaurants, which will be delivered to the theater. Whitmore would like to offer theatergoers dinner and a show on certain nights at the theater for a reasonable price.
Movies will also return to the single large screen. Whitmore says they will not be first run, but as close as he can schedule them after general release. He'll also offer classic movies and holiday favorites.
Although it will be a gradual progression to reach the full potential and implementation of all his plans, Whitmore said, he has a passion and commitment to providing a unique educational, creative and entertaining venue for Villa Grove and the surrounding area.
An open house with tours and entertainment is being planned for this fall.