The Lindo Theatre, designed by world famous Chicago architects and brothers, C.W. Rapp and George L. Rapp, opened on April 17, 1922. John Dittman, owner of several other Freeport theatres, constructed it.
The theatre had a single screen with a seating capacity of 1200 all on one floor, a stage for vaudeville acts with dressing rooms below and a Bennet pipe organ to accompany the films. For the Lindo's opening an orchestra with the top musicians in Freeport performed, as well as an organist, who was particularly skilled at playing for silent films.
A contest was conducted to name the new theatre, and the prize-winning name, Lindo, was taken from the names Lincoln and Douglas to commemorate their second debate, which had been held in Freeport.
Silents gave way to sound and theatres entered a new era. During the 1930's several additional theatres opened in Freeport: The Patio (which is now occupied by the Stephenson County Farm Bureau), the State and the new State.
In 1939 Steve Bennis of Lincoln, Illinois, leased the Lindo, renamed it the Freeport and started a three-generation Bennis family operation in Freeport. Due to a decline in attendance the theatre was closed in 1983.
In September, 1984 Willis and Shirley Johnson purchased the theatre from Anthony and David Bennis, and it became part of Classic Cinemas.
About this time multi-screen theatres were becoming more popular. Instead of having one movie in a 1,200 seat house, it was more practical to have a variety of movies to offer patrons. To accomplish this, the theatre was divided into three auditoriums seating 266 in the main house, and 220 in each of the other two. The dividing walls were specially constructed so that no sound can be heard from one theatre to another. The wall treatment also absorbs some of the sound instead of the hard wall surfaces and adds a decorative touch. Each theatre has a different color scheme but shades of red and cream were used throughout.
As a result of the many advances in film presentation, new equipment was installed which allowed the manager to put the film together on a large platter system and start the movie from a remote location. Also xenon bulbs replaced the old carbon arc system and provided a better and more consistent light source. Additional heating and air conditioning systems were installed in the theatres and projection booths.
In the lobbies, the modernizing which had been done during the 1940s was removed, revealing the remnants of beautiful plasterwork. The areas that had become damaged due to water or partial removal were recast and restored. In the main lobby, the glued down carpet was pealed away revealing the original terrazzo which was in very good shape and only needed a few patches.
In 1997 three all-new auditoriums were added which feature decor and color schemes that reflect the heritage of the theatre while providing new comfortable seats and large screens. The theatre upgraded its sound systems, adding digital sound to the powerful HPS-4000 sound systems in all six of the auditoriums. A 42-inch video monitor was added in the lobby so patrons can see film previews while getting their popcorn and other concession items. In 2003 a new concession stand was built to enhance customer service. A new box office also was built in the outer lobby.
In 2006, more comfortable and spacious seating was added to auditoriums one, two and three.
On November 28, 2007, the Lindo was proud to light their new vertical sign. The original sign had disappeared, but thanks to some old photographs, a reproduction was created and affixed to the original 1922 building facade. The new vertical sign is 14 feet tall with dark blue and yellow lettering and is lit with neon and 670 chasing lights. The new sign now welcomes guests as they enter the Lindo Theatre, just as it did over 85 year's ago.
On December 7, 2007, the first phase of another Lindo expansion was completed with 4 new auditoriums. The new auditoriums have stadium seating (two aisles) with new luxurious leather seats and big screens. The decor follows the color schemes and heritage of the theatre. A party room was added that can hold up to 18 guests for a special occasion at the movies.
On May 22nd, 2008, the Lindo Theatre’s renovations were completed. The Lindo Theatre is now 9 screens (6 with stadium seating). The old 1, 2, & 3 auditoriums have been converted into two new auditoriums with big screens and stadium seating.
In March of 2009 Digital 3D was installed on three screens!
On March 12, 2012 all auditoriums were updated with Enhanced 4K Digital Projection and Datasat Sound Processor.
Take a "Virtual Tour” of the Lindo Theatre (link will open a new browser window).