Rockford residents share optimism for Midway Theater revitalization

Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 11:02 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Rockford’s historic Midway Theater was home to decades of entertainment and memories before it closed around 2006.

Right now, there are no definite plans for a revitalization, but some residents are optimistic for a revival.

“I went to a lot of movies there had a lot of dates there.”

As the founder of the former New American theatre in Rockford, J.R. Sullivan was part of what he calls a cultural renaissance in downtown Rockford in the 80s and 90s.

“It had the post war energy and that really was an optimistic time filled with belief and a great desire to get out and about.”

Rockford’s Midway Theater opened in 1918 as an entertainment hotspot. Since the theater closed around 2006, it’s had a change in ownership and suffered a roof collapse in 2012.

“This needs face it’s also the critical mass of enough people and some money but it needs people to get to work and not to wait around for someone else to do it.”

But it’s not that easy: The property has 17 different code violations as of 2018. This includes the replacement of doors and windows and flaking paint.

“The building can offer so many things to the community,” says Isidro Barrios.

The Midway Theater is in Rockford City Council Member Isidro barrios’ ward. He’s on board for a revitalization, hoping someone will invest in its future soon.

“If this could be rehabbed into a workable, living, vibrant space, we could be looking at a whole different downtown,” says Rockford Area Arts Council Executive Director Mary McNamara Bernsten.

“The midway Theater has a long and important history in Rockford. It was really the hub of the entertainment part of town,” says Luke Fredrickson with the Midway Village Museum.

23 News did reach out to current theater owner peter crane... He did not comment on the plans he has for restoring the theater at this time.