Though The Art Theater has been a part of downtown Champaign for almost a century, in January of this year Sanford Hess became head of the operations there, making a few drastic changes. CU residents obviously approved of the adjustments, as they voted The Art Theater the best new business of the year.
“[The Art Theater] has had many different owners, but we have continued to show movies since 1913,” part-time employee Todd Isaacs said.
As it states on their website,, The Art Theater’s mission statement is “to be the true independent movie theater for movie lovers.” They play movies that won’t show up in your ordinary movie theater complex, aiming for an old-timey feel. Recently they have shown Mao’s Last Dance, Kundun, Catfish and the humorous Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.
“You can come downtown, and go to a movie with only one screen. We strive to give a throwback experience to movie-goers, and to what people did as a kid,” Isaacs said.
They also offer an array of different experiences for movie-goers. On Tuesdays, they host a movie club where all you do is show up, watch the film and have a discussion about it afterwards. Every Friday and Saturday night at 11 p.m., they play a classic, a recent classic, an overlooked gem or a movie so awful it’s good. There are reduced prices on tickets and food for these late nighters.
“We also have some of the best equipment and sound systems. Plus, we still show our movies on film while most theaters show theirs on a disc,” Isaacs said.
Besides alternative film genres, a main characteristic that separates The Art Theater from its competitors is the fact that beer, wine and mixed drinks are all available for purchase during the shows, a change Hess made. Some other cool treats offered are cookies from a local bakery, hot pretzels from a Chicago-based business and different drinks such as hot chocolate, coffee, tea and fruit juice. Of course, they have popcorn as well, popped in low-fat canola oil.
The Art Theater is available for rent for corporate meetings, private showings and different live events. It seats up to 250 people and can be rented for a day or even a week, so the possibilities are endless.
On top of it all, the Art Theater is a green theater. They do their best to recycle all bottles, the popcorn bags are made of recycled paper, and they recycle their old film trailers instead of throwing them away.
A perfect combination of tradition and contemporary, The Art Theater appears to be ready for its next century of life.

About The Author

Jordan Ramos

Jordan is a junior in news-editorial journalism and aspires to write for an MLB team upon graduation. Besides baseball, her interests include scouring used book stores for good reads, singing loudly to Jimmy Eat World and visiting her favorite city of Chicago as often as she can. Talk to her about the Cubs and you will become her new best friend.

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