Majestic and Will Rogers Theatre - Katie Troccoli 2015
After he bought the Majestic he would come to the theatre from California where he lived to work on the place. He would invite my family, and I to come to the theatre. We helped him with many projects, what ever work needed to be done.
When Mr. Burke bought the theatre there was a 10 year protective covenant that he could not play any first run film. When the covenant was up, the Majestic opened in 2007 managed by Kyle and Cindy Mitchell. According to Mr. Burke, they where not paying rent and he needed to make a change. In early 2009 Tim Burke asked me to help him run the theatre. He had a manager, Shelly and Paul Bottomly. I agreed to collect the money and make sure the bills got paid. About 6 weeks into the business, Tim called me at my real estate office about noon, and said, he had fired the manager. He told me that he needed my husband Jim and I to run the theatre tonight or it will go dark and never open again. We would be met at the door by projectionist Bill Sramek. That was June 12, 2009. I was there almost every night there after. I learned how to run the theatre as I went along. My husband Jim, and I ran the theatre for about 5 years, 7 days a week. The only day we closed was Christmas Eve. In those 5 years I took one pay check for $300. I paid all the bills including the mortgage and insurance. In hind sight, I don’t think any of the people involved before me deserved the things that Tim said about them.
In 2011 Tim Burke suggested we buy another theatre. Together we purchased a theatre in Charleston, IL known as the Will Rogers. My partner did not hold up his end of the agreement. I was left to make all the mortgage, insurance, and property taxes payments with no help from him for restoration of the closed venue. He threw a tantrum, the first Thanksgiving after we bought the Will Rogers. My husband and I invested $20,000. down payment. We took out a $15,000. loan to upgrade the electrical system to get the project moving forward. We paid all the carrying costs.
In 2012 - 2013 Hollywood began converting from 35mm film to digital projection. The Majestic was running 35 mm film. As time went on it became more difficult to get film to put on the screen. The Majestic theatre began to struggle under the weight of carrying the un-open Will Rogers and paying it’s own overhead expenses. Not being able to get product to put on the screen was killing the Majestic.
A group of Streator citizens (Amanda Christoff, Chuck Vaughn, Haily and Holly Burasch, Cinda Bond, Dave Miller to name a few) approached me about trying to raise the funds to convert the theatre to digital projection. For the next year we held 50/50 contests, bake sales, cook outs, and car shows. We sold buttons, and t – shirts. We wrote letters to anyone we thought might help. Any free moment was spent with a goal to raise the estimated $121,000. dollars needed to convert the Majestic from film to digital projection. We raised about $16,000.
An angel sent me an e mail. Bob Endres had began his career at the Majestic. He had gone on to work at Radio City Music Hall and now works for Dolby in New York. Mr. Endres donated the rest of what we needed to get digital projection. He sent two of the countries best technicians to install the equipment. Dave Birdie and Paul Sacco donated their over time to the effort. The cost was much higher then our original estimate to convert the theatre from film to digital projection.
Our business partner, Tim Burke, who owned the Majestic building, whom I thought would be happy, freaked out. He said he had thought we would not be successful and planned to close the Majestic. He made crazy demands from me to buy the building. He wanted $100,000. in cash and assume his $128,000. mortgage. (That was not assumable) I offered him $10,000. over the appraised value. And he could take anything he had stored in the building not essential to running the business. He refused. On Monday Aug. 25th 2014, after a show, he went gangster. He sent men to board up the front of the theatre in the middle of the night locking me out. I got Facebook messages from very upset public who saw it happening. Not a good night for me.
My attorney told me it was a civil matter. Go to the building and secure the assets of the corporation. I was the legal tenant as I had not been given notice to vacate. My main goal was to secure the digital projectors. I knew their value and was sure he would sell them and pocket the money. On the morning of Thursday Aug. 28, 2014 my crew of friends and employees entered the building and did just that.
The building owner, my business partner, never made another mortgage payment. He circulated rumors that I had pocked all the money and he had been paying all the bills. I had heard the story before, about Kyle and Cindy Mitchell. It was not the truth for me, and I suspect not for them either.
I continued to make payments on the Will Rogers Theatre in Charleston, IL because my husband and my name is on title. But, because Tim Burke never made another payment on the Majestic, the First Farmers Bank is taking the Will Rogers Theatre too. The Bank told me they have never before given loan approval to some one they are foreclosing on. It is uncharted waters. Jim and I have loan commitment to purchase both theatres if an agreement could be reached. Tim Burke never responded to anyone who reached out to him. It is hard to understand why a person would throw himself under the bus. His actions not only hurt himself, but all the employees, people, and communities where these two theatres are located. A very sad way to live one’s life, when he could have been a hero.
On Aug. 12th the Majestic Theatre goes to Sheriff Sale. The terms of the sale are 10% down in cash and paid in full in cash within 24 hours. On Tuesday Aug 4, I will be meeting with Hoyt Alexander of First Farmers Bank to show the building to prospective buyers for the sheriff sale. The only way I will be able to buy either property is if the bank wins the bid at the sheriff sale.
There are many people who have interest in the Majestic. I think most think the Majestic is turn key. They are going to be shocked when they see the condition. The building owner or his friends have stripped the building. The movie screens are gone. The sound equipment is gone. The baseboard heaters in the halls and bathrooms are gone. The heaters in the lobby are gone. The water heaters are gone. The mirrors are gone. The poster cases are gone. Some of the theatre seats are gone. They were scrapping the cast iron radiators for cash. The roof is leaking, electric wires are hanging loose, and everything is covered by mold.
My husband and I ran the theatre for 5 years. I tried to contribute to the community the best I could. If someone else buys the building I fear it won’t be long before they walk away. If I turn the donated digital projectors over to a new person, what is to stop them from selling them to recoup their business loss. It is not easy to operate a two screen old movie theatre in Streator, Illinois with a depressed economy.
The Majestic holds a special place in my heart. She is a grand old Art Deco Theatre built for Vaudeville. If these walls could talk, what acts they must have seen. The Majestic is an anchor in the down town that attracts people who eat in restaurants, and buy gas. The fall out for the cities of Streator and Charleston to be deprived of open theatres is devastating. I feel I have let these communities down, even though the circumstances were far beyond my control.
I would like nothing more then to secure both the Majestic and Will Rogers Theatres and proceed with the commitment that I have made to both Streator and Charleston, Illinois to re open their movie palaces. Even if I secure both properties the task of getting them back in shape to open will be daunting. People tell me I am crazy to care. My heart is heavy with grief. I have to do what ever I can to save both the Majestic and Will Rogers theatre palaces.
Katie Troccoli - 815-228-2058
The Will Rogers Theatre
705 - 715 Monroe Ave., Charleston, IL
Endangered Theater Purchased
The Will Rogers Theatre, included on Landmarks Illinois’ 2011 “Ten Most Endangered Historic Places” list, was purchased in November, 2011 by preservation-minded owners who plan to fully restore the building to its former grandeur. The purchasers, Katie and James Troccoli of Ottawa, Illinois and Tim Burke of Los Angeles, California (an Ottawa native), also own the historic Majestic Theater in Streator, Illinois www.MajesticShows.com . They report that cleaning out the building has begun and hope to start renovation in spring, 2012.
The new owners learned about the building from the publicity generated by its inclusion on Landmarks Illinois’ “Ten Most” list. Charleston Preservation Commission Chair Kit Morice said the listing not only created statewide awareness for one of their city’s most historic buildings, but also helped local officials recognize its architectural importance. The Charleston City Council voted in May to give landmark protection to the 73-year-old Art Deco theater, which had closed in 2010, sending a strong message that the city supported its preservation.
Will Rogers Theatre T - shirts, and Sweatshirts are now available! Order yours now! Visit our store for details!
A fund has been set up to help the Will Rogers Theatre restoration move forward.
Please visit GoFundMe to help.
We have reviewed your request for a service upgrade or 2nd point of electric service to 705 Monroe in Charleston.
Option 1 – Upgrade your existing 400 amp 120/240 volt 3 phase service to a 600 amp 120/240 volt 3 phase service. There would be no charge from Ameren Illinois to upgrade your existing service at the same location. We would utilize the existing transformer bank and upgrade the overhead service to your building. You need to determine if this is an option that would work for you based on your load requirements for the theater and storefronts combined.
Option 2 – Install a 2nd point of service to the south end of the east side of the store front area. This would be an 800 amp 120/240 volt single phase service to provide service to the storefronts only. The existing 400 amp 120/240 volt 3 phase service would remain. Signage would be required to indicate 2 points of service to the building. The charge for the 2nd point of service from Ameren Illinois is $5,093.45. This quote is firm if accepted by July 14, 2014 and if payment has been received and you are ready for the service by October 12, 2014.
Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to meet to discuss the service options.
Sr. Distribution Design Specialist - Division IV
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Restoration of the Will Rogers Theatre - Charleston, IL is costly.
Donations to further the project are welcome.
We sincerely appreciate the support of the community and thank you for your interest in the
Will Rogers Theatre.