Movie theater more than just a building for its patrons

Rantoul Press editor

The Wings Theater has a special place in Mitch Abney’s heart.

Abney was a youngster, newly able to exert his new-found independence, and decided to take in a movie.

“The first movie I went to driving my own car was at the Wings in March of 1982,” said Abney, now of Austin, Texas. “There was a torrential downpour that Friday night, pretty appropriate for going to see ‘Swamp Thing’.”

Abney said at one point the theater had someone run around “in a kinda/sorta impression of the Swamp Thing himself.”

“It didn’t really help the movie, but I obviously remember it 30 years later.
“RIP, Wings,” he said.

It was announced at the Sept. 4 study session of the Rantoul Village Board that the theater would be torn down in a couple of weeks.

News-Gazette reporter Meg Dickinson, who grew up in Paxton, remembers going to a number of movies at the Wings. One that she especially remembers is  “Titanic,” when she was 11 years old.

She remembers seeing a classmate at the theater, and the awkwardness of seeing a movie sex scene for the first time.

The Feb. 2, 2000, edition of the Rantoul Press announced the Wings would be going out of business that Sunday.

Manager Shari Trimble said corporate officials had informed her in October that they were considering closing the theater.

Dwindling ticket sales and the need for a building facelift were cited as the reasons.  

“Ticket sales were way down,” said Tim Johnson, a representative for Kerasotes Theaters, which owned the theater. “We left the theater open two years longer than we should have.”

He said the company was looking at building eight-plex theaters in the area but didn’t feel Rantoul could support such a theater.

The Wings was built in what had been a city parking lot and opened in 1976.

It included twin auditoriums with 350 seats each.

Mayor Jack McJilton presided over a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the theater.

The name of the theater was chosen from 80 entries submitted in a Name the Theater contest. Dorothy King, a former Rantoul resident, provided the winning name.

She received a $100 savings bond.


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