2000 Photo from the Darren Snow collection.
2640 Claire Ave|
Alton IL 62002
|Record #6108 |
Opened: April 9, 1976|
Closed: April 9, 1998
Capacity: 600 seats|
Current Organ: none
| Also Known As: |
| Previously operated by: Wehrenberg Theatres|
Information for this tour was contributed by Darren Snow.
OPENED: 4/9/76; "The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox" and "Robin and Marian." CLOSED: 4/9/98. 2 screens.
Claire Avenue had two residents until 1976 -- and the Alton Cine apparently usurped the homes of both of them, assuming the address that had belonged to Freda P. Sadler.
Wehrenberg’s opening-day ad crowed that the Cine was Alton’s "first new cinema in 41 years," which didn’t say much for the company’s mathematical skills -- Alton welcomed new cinemas in 1936, 1937, and 1939. Further proof of genius was the creative way the opening feature’s reels were run out of sequence.
Alton directories didn’t list a manager for the Cine until 1990 -- and they hadn’t even included it in the yellow pages for its first few years of operation, confining it to the white pages as "Alton, Cine" as if it were a person! Mike Mueller was the first manager listed (1990-93), followed by Rhonda Grabner (1994-95), and John Brendle (1996).
The St. Louis-based Wehrenberg chain, which built the Cine in 1976, was already trying to get rid of it by 1989 -- but no takers were found. The Alton Telegraph reported on 1/21/98 that the Alton Cine might close soon, as the chain felt it had outrgrown the venue. The company hoped Altonians would visit its new Jamestown Mall multiplex several miles away in Missouri instead, but the Simon DeBartolo Group, owner of nearby Alton Square, offered to build Wehrenberg a new cinema in the mall. Don Miller, president of the River Bend Growth Association, also wanted to help Wehrenberg find a new location in Alton.
Darlene Tippett, the Cine’s general manager, started spreading the word that the theatre would close on the last Sunday of March, but Wehrenberg marketing director Kelly Hoskins denied it: "It’s not closing on Sunday," she said. "I don’t know where that came from." Tippett insisted that her information had come from a higher source, but the theatre remained open nonetheless.
Mayor Don Sandidge was also under the impression that the Cine was closing, following a visit by city inspectors. Alton had heard complaints from the locals about sticky floors and filthy seats, which some patrons had taken to covering with trash bags. The inspectors threatened to condemn the theatre, and the management admitted that the Cine was going out of business. Sandidge expressed hope that another venue would replace the Cine, which was Alton’s last remaining functional theatre.
On April 9, 1998, the deed was done -- The Cine was locked and boarded up on its 22nd birthday. Wehrenberg’s executive vice president in St. Louis, John Louis, claimed that the duplex was outdated and outmoded, and that it could not be renovated for a reasonable cost. Again, the locals were invited to trek over to the Jamestown multiplex in Missouri.
As of February 2001, the Cine remains on the market, ready to be cleaned up and put to use by any interested party. The mayor has an even better idea: Put the Grand Theatre to use again.
Photos remain the property of the Member and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the Member.
December 2018 photos from the Adam Martin collection.
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June 2000 photos from the Darren Snow collection.
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Last featured 4/21/2005. Last edited 3/11/2019.