What Makes Us Classic

Classic Cinemas is a family-owned business based in Downers Grove, Illinois since 1978. With 16 locations and 137 screens, our welcoming staff sets the stage for shared movie moments, from family time to audience gasps, creating a truly magical experience. We invest in the most advanced sound and projection so you’re fully immersed in the story without distractions.

The Classic Promise

Being classic means passing the test of time. Since 1978, our family-owned company has helped create shared movie moments with friends and loved ones. It’s your enjoyment that makes what we do meaningful, so we’ve created guest-friendly policies like playing fewer trailers, free refills, thank you mints and our 30 minute money-back guarantee with you in mind. Combined with innovative picture and sound technology, we provide guests with a two-hour vacation that is truly extraordinary and always classic.

We promise:

  • The best movie-going experience.
  • Affordable luxury - first-class amenities and service for everyone.
  • If we ever fall short, we'll do what it takes to make it right.

Company History

Classic Cinemas is a family-owned business run by Willis, Shirley and Chris Johnson. Willis bought the Tivoli Building in 1976 and says he got into the movie business by default when the largest tenant in the building, the Tivoli Theatre, closed for "remodeling". He had been a partner in a printing business for over 20 years and was ready for a new challenge so he began operating the Tivoli in 1978.

Shirley spent 17 years in marketing with Miles Laboratory before joining Willis in running Classic Cinemas. Together they developed a strong reputation for breathing new life into tired theatres. Many locations were acquired by Classic Cinemas in a state of disrepair and were meticulously restored to their original splendor while updating to the latest technology. Willis and Shirley are members of a number of preservation societies, including the Theatre Historical Society. The company received the Landmark Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for Stewardship in 2011.

Chief Popcorn Eater Chris Johnson will readily admit he started at the bottom, clearing out the Tivoli basement - seven dumpsters full! But he was only a kid and eager to make some spending money. He was an usher, assistant manager, manager, concessions manager, and operations manager, all while going to school and obtaining a BA (with highest honors) from the University of Illinois and an MBA (again with honors) from the University of Chicago. Today, Chris has shared duties as CPE and CEO.