Wildey Theatre Reborn in Edwardsville, Illinois
One of the many great things about life here in Edwardsville, Illinois is the vibrant downtown.
The restored and reopened Wildey Theatre is adding a lot of evening events to the community's already active social calendar.
Like many single-screen older movie houses, the Wildey closed its doors in the early 1980s (the last first-run film to play there was "The Big Chill" in 1984). After many starts and stops at preservation over the ensuing 27 years, the city acquired the property in 1999 and this year has given us back this civic gem.
Opened originally in 1909 as an opera house and a meeting site for the International Order of Odd Fellows (note the I.O.O.F. in the friezework at the top of the building), the Wildey has held a firm grip on the hearts of Edwardsville residents over the years.
Through its history, the Wildey has hosted musical performances, vaudeville shows, silent films, dance recitals and all manner of events. The facility graduated to "talkies" with Al Jolson's "The Jazz Singer" in 1927. Read more about the history of the Wildey here.
If you go to the Wildey, you can buy tickets up to an hour in advance of the show at the box office (located in the Art Deco ticket booth in front of the theater at 250-254 North Main Street in Edwardsville, IL 62025. Or, you can order tickets online at this link.
Tickets cost $8 for adults, $6 for students (children, high schoolers and college students with valid student ID) and seniors (age 55+). Concerts at the Wildey are open to students age 16 and up, but under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Infants and children under one do not require a ticket if they are in their parent's lap.
My family recently saw Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window" during a double feature that also offered Hitch's "Vertigo" on the bill. It was wonderful to see a favorite film the way it was meant to be experienced. Jimmy Stewart's character was more helpless in his wheelchair. Grace Kelly was more beautifully luminous. Character actress Thelma Ritter's wisecracks cracked wiser. And Raymond Burr's killer was more menacing on the Wildey's big screen. Audience members gasped at some of the more shocking moments just like moviegoers in 1954 when the film was first release.
Coming up at the Wildey as I write this blog post are the Mel Brooks classics "Young Frankenstein" and "Blazing Saddles," concerts from Erin Bode and Alvin Jett & the Phat NoiZ, an appearance by storyteller Bobby Norfolk, Roland Johnson and the Voodoo Blues Band, "It" starring silent film queen Clara Bow, and a coffee concert featuring Gershwin tunes. Whenever you're reading this, there's bound to be something you'll want to attend.
Next door the Encore Wine Bar has opened, giving Wildey patrons a place to sip before and after the show. A wine tasting and movie event featuring the Meryl Streep movie "It's Complicated" is scheduled for June 30 at 6:30 p.m.
To paraphrase from another of my favorite classic movies, "Casablanca," I think the reborn Wildey and a new generation of Edwardsville residents are at the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
I'll see you at the movies!