Theatre Historical Society of America's American Theatre Architecture Archives Are Now in an Online Catalog as Well as for Onsite Research

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Theatre Historical Society of America's 'Willis & Shirley Johnson and Classic Cinemas Research & Education Center' brings more than 35,000 items focused on historic theatres online. The American Theatre Architecture Archive (ATAA), the greatest theatre architecture-related archive of its kind, is a primary source for information related to architectural restoration, aid in applying for landmark status, and documenting performances in America's historic theatres.

Willis & Shirley Johnson at the York Theatre in Elmhurst, IL., home of THS

Willis & Shirley Johnson at the York Theatre in Elmhurst, IL., home of THS

“THS built the Willis & Shirley Johnson and Classic Cinemas Research & Education Center to welcome historic theater scholars, professionals, and enthusiasts." Richard Fosbrink - THS Executive Director

Named in honor of long-standing Theatre Historical Society of America (THS) members Shirley & Willis Johnson, the center and online research tools are designed to help enthusiasts, scholars, community development programs, and allied professionals access important information and artifacts stored in the THS American Theatre Architecture Archive. Materials for research and historic theatre preservation can now be studied through the THS online catalog, as well as onsite in the THS Elmhust, IL. office and by special research request.

The collections housed at the Theatre Historical Society of America's archives contain information on over 18,000 theatres across the globe, focusing primarily on those in the United States. Materials span nearly every style and period of theatre architecture, helping scholars and theatre professionals document and preserve the cultural and social history of America’s theatre buildings from architecture to performances and audiences. Materials in the collection date from the 1910s to the present, with a small portion of the collection dating to the 1880s.

“THS built the Willis & Shirley Johnson and Classic Cinemas Research & Education Center to welcome historic theater scholars, professionals, and enthusiasts. We celebrate, document and promote historic theatres and their cultural, social, and historic relevance. Besides being loyal and important supporters of THS, the Johnson’s created Classic Cinemas, a dynamic enterprise that brings vitality and life to several historic theatres and the communities that have taken them to their heart. Naming the center after Willis & Shirley and Classic Cinemas, their labor of love, reflects their passion and dedication as well as the essence of our mission.” – Richard Fosbrink, THS Executive Director.

The THS online catalog, archives, and attached education center offers information and resources including reference books, photographs, periodicals, and numerous other items. The online catalog also provides an important opportunity for preliminary research in the THS archives and collection.

About Calssic Cinemas: Classic Cinemas, based in Downers Grove, Illinois, is a family-owned business, run by Willis, Shirley and Chris Johnson. It was started in 1978 with the operation of the Tivoli Theatre in Downers Grove. Willis always says he got in the movie business by default when the largest tenant in the Tivoli Building closed the theatre for "remodeling". He had been a partner in a printing business for over 20 years and was ready for a new challenge -- the rest as they say is history. The company today operates 13 theatres in 12 communities. Along with the Tivoli Theatre in Downers Gove, IL, the company has restored such older downtown movie theatres as the Lindo in Freeport, the York in Elmhurst, the Lake in Oak Park, the Woodstock in Woodstock and the Paramount in Kankakee.

About Theatre Historical Society of America: Founded in 1969 by Ben Hall, the Theatre Historical Society of America (THS) celebrates, documents, and promotes the architectural, cultural and social relevance of America’s historic theatres. Through its preservation of the collections in the American Theatre Architecture Archive, its signature publication Marquee™ and Conclave Theatre Tour, THS increases awareness, appreciation and scholarly study of America’s theatres.

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Catherine Olteanu
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