Efforts underway to restore historic Catlow Theatre in Barrington

John Garcia Image
Tuesday, February 13, 2024
Efforts underway to restore historic north suburban theater
The Catlow theater in Barrington, IL has been closed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

BARRINGTON, Ill. (WLS) -- Brian Long has been discovering piles of old movie treasures as he sorts through some of what is stacked in the projector room at the Catlow Theatre.

The 500-seat theater has been closed since the start of the pandemic in 2020. But even though there have been no movies playing, the marquee still carries new messages every day, often including important community news.

"The marquee is the sounding board of Barrington," Brian said.

Julianne and Brian Long bought the Catlow last fall in order to keep what they say is a vital part of the town's history alive.

"The marquee is iconic," Julianne said.

Brian calls it the architectural gem of Barrington, and he is trying to restore the Catlow to its original condition.

Architect Alfonso Iannelli, a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright, originally designed the Pickwick theater for this space, but it was deemed too big and he built the Pickwick in Park Ridge. Iannelli then designed the smaller Catlow Theatre for Barrington.

"There's a lot of similarities between the Pickwick and this theater, especially in the hand carvings and hand painted details he put into it," said director of operations Dylan Nelson.

But the theater business has changed, moving toward lots of screens and smaller capacity.

"A full-time movie business would be unsustainable in this day and age," Brian said.

Behind the movie screen, however, is a stage and an elegantly painted proscenium. The Longs plan to occasionally show movies on a retractable screen and restore the stage for live theater and musical performances.

"That stage being brought back to its roots of live performance, the talent we can showcase, what that will do for downtown Barrington," Julianne said.

The new owners said in the future, the Catlow will be run by a foundation. They plan to have everything up and running by the 100-year anniversary of this theater in 2027.