A beacon of arts and culture in DeKalb for over 90 years, Egyptian Theatre ready to open after $5.5M expansion

Chicago Scene

The Egyptian Theatre has always been thought of as an underdog.  Originally designed as a combination motion picture house and vaudeville theatre, it was set to open its doors in 1929. But construction was almost halted due to the stock market crash. The crash changed some building plans.

Early days of the Egyptian Theatre

 Alex Nerad is the Executive Director of the Egyptian Theatre  

“A lot of things changed from original plans, whether it was the lobby floor that was originally supposed to be marble,” he said. “Instead, they went around town and took tile that was left from other projects and abandoned buildings, brought it here, broke it up, and put down this mosaic floor.”

Pressing on, the theatre made its opening debut during the Great Depression and has been part of the fabric of the DeKalb community ever since.

Acting like an old friend, the Egyptian Theatre has always been there for the people of DeKalb.  In certain times, it proved an escape from World War II or September 11 with entertainment like movies and concerts. It also fulfilled a civic duties, like hosting a Democrat Rally that featured Senator  John F. Kennedy. 

Auditorium space

What makes this a unique space is its Egyptian theme. It was inspired by the discovery of the tomb of King Tut in 1922, a discovery that set off a nationwide boom of interest in everything Egyptian.   

“Between the ’20s and ’30s, there was over 100 Egyptian Theatres built around the country,” Nerad said. “Today this is one of only seven left in the United States. It’s the only one East of the Rocky Mountains.” 

After a year of being closed, the Egyptian Theatre is set to show off its $5.5 million expansion and renovation. 

“We broke grown May 1, 2019. It was 90 years to the day when they broke ground originally in 1929,” Nerad said.  “It was the first time in 90 years that the footprint has been expanded here, increasing bathroom, concession, storage, lobby space, and most importantly air conditioning so we can be open year-round.”

Concept rendering of the new addition

Egyptian Theatre
135 N 2nd St.
DeKalb, IL 60115

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