Documentary to salute Tivoli Theatre in Downers Grove

“History Happens Here, The Tivoli Theatre,” a documentary about the Downers Grove landmark, will premiere in a single-night screening May 2.

The documentary is co-produced by filmmaker Jim Toth, along with the Downers Grove Historical Society, to whom he has gifted the movie, according to a news release. The movie will be screened at the Tivoli Theatre, 5021 Highland Ave., where doors will open at 6 p.m. May 2. Admission is free to Downers Grove Historical Society members and costs $5 for other viewers, with proceeds benefiting the society. Tickets can be bought at

With an iconic marquee that faces the Burlington rail line and graces the 1,200-seat movie palace at Highland and Warren avenues, the Tivoli Theatre opened on Christmas Day in 1928.

In the 95 years since its launch, the Tivoli Theatre has outlasted three owners, survived three almost business-ending shutdowns, housed an embalming facility in its basement and introduced an X-rated film scandal before eventually being lovingly preserved by its current – and accidental – proprietors, the Johnson family of Downers Grove. Lifelong Downers Grove resident Willis Johnson, his wife, Shirley, and son Chris Johnson have turned that single iconic screen into Classic Cinemas, the largest movie theater chain in Illinois and 39th largest in the country, according to the release.

Their story is a celebration of Downers Grove, and is described as a must for anyone interested in the iconic movie house.

Toth, a documentary filmmaker and content creator, has spent more than 20 years in the Chicago advertising world. In recent years, Toth has become passionate about independent filmmaking and about reapplying his creative skill set to documentary filmmaking and family legacy storytelling, according to the release.

The filmmaker said he will be on hand at the evening premiere, adding that donating the documentary to the people of Downers Grove is his way of discovering, learning and appreciating his village’s history, while directly giving back to the community.

Shaw Local News Network

Shaw Local News Network

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