After years in disrepair, Lyric Theater breaths life into Blue Island’s entertainment district

After years in disrepair, Lyric Theater breaths life into Blue Island’s entertainment district

BLUE ISLAND, Ill — Since the 1830s, the city of Blue Island has marched to the beat of its own drum. Just 16 miles from Chicago’s Loop, Blue Island is an enclave for the construction booms of the Calumet Sag Channel while becoming the “Brick Capitol of the World”.

There was a time when the Lyric Theater was the driving force behind Blue Island’s bustling entertainment center. For decades the 12,000-square-foot theater typically offered mainstream Hollywood films to families, which created lifelong memories for moviegoers.

The Lyric opened in 1917 adjacent to the Grand Opera House in Blue Island’s entertainment center. The first talking picture show was “The Terror” on April 1, 1929. Then tragedy stuck.

A fire broke out on Feb. 14, 1960, during a matinee showing of the movie “Cash McCall,” starring Hollywood icons James Garner and Natalie Wood, destroyed the theater. Fortunately, everyone was able to escape the blaze uninjured.

After years in disrepair, Lyric Theater breaths life into Blue Island’s entertainment district
Assessing the damage from the Lyric Theatre fire in 1960

For much of the 21st Century, The Lyric sat dormant, unable to attract the investment to once again become the vibrant showpiece of Blue Island’s uptown business district. Thanks to the vision and investment of two longtime Blue Island families, the Garetto’s and Cantelo’s, The Lyric Theater has been reborn and reinvented.

This story doesn’t start then, it has roots dating back in 1948 when a young girl by the name of Janet Fisher, a ticket-taker at the Lyric, met her future husband, Angelo Garetto, an aspiring musician who went on to start Beggars Pizza. The rest as they say, is history.

“When my grandma was 16 years old, she worked at the Lyric Theater and back then the ticket booth was in the middle of the street in a glass booth, everyone in town knew her,” ” Amanda Garetto-Melvin of Beggars Pizza Commissary said. “My grandpa came to a show one day, bought a ticket, had to know who the girl was, eventually figured out who she was, asked her parent’s permission to go out on a date (because he was a little bit older) and two years later he asked her to marry him. The story of our family started right here.”

Nearly every inch of the theater has been renovated, offering a modern but intimate experience for visitors of all ages. Guest will enjoy a new 29-foot side, 17-foot tall screen, along with state-of-the-art audio and visual experience, never before enjoyed in this space. Keeping that Blue Island charm, a concession stand will provide snacks and drinks, and for the adults, a full bar. Of course, pizza will be offered and appropriately proved by Beggars Pizza.

The Lyric in the early 1900s

Moviegoers have a choice of seating in luxurious booths or comfortable chairs and bar stools. There are also two private suites on the upper level for folks who need a space to accommodate large groups. 

Part of the mission of the newly opened Lyric is to create a space in Blue Island for the community. Later this year, the theater will also welcome live local and national touring artists to its stage. From rock to punk rock to jazz and funk and so much more, eclectic sounds are bound to breathe a fresh sense in its next chapter.

To learn about movie times and the history of the Lyric, click here.

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