CHARLESTON - Some movie lovers lost an old friend Sunday.
The Will Rogers Theatre, 705 Monroe Ave., closed its doors that day. The corporate decision was announced through a small sign posted over the past several days on the ticket counter for the AMC Theaters, Inc. facility.
"It wasn't really publicized much. Most customers learned about it through word of mouth," Will Rogers employee Connor Cuddy said Sunday night. "For some people the decision came fairly sudden. A lot of our frequent customers were upset about it."
The Will Rogers opened as a one-screen theater during the 1930s when movies competed with radio as the most popular forms of mass entertainment. The theater closed down for a short time during the early 1980s before new ownership later converted it to a two-screen franchise.
The theater just off the courthouse square in Charleston was popular with locals and Eastern Illinois University students through the past seven decades. But like many smaller theaters, it was losing financial ground to multi-screen movieplexes, DVD rentals and Internet downloads.
"I really liked the small-theater atmosphere," said Cuddy, who expects to transfer his work to another AMC facility. "I've been here for three years. It was my first job."
The last films at the Will Rogers were "Megamind" and the latest in the "Harry Potter" series. An afternoon matinee and two evening viewings were shown.
The movie theater is dedicated to the memory of popular American humorist Will Rogers, who once said, "I never met a man I didn't like."
Cuddy said he came to love the building with its unique character, including decorative glass and architecture from the Depression era.
"I will miss working here. I came to really like the building and customers," he said.
Efforts to reach AMC officials were unsuccessful as of press time Sunday evening.
Contact Herb Meeker at email@example.com or 238-6869.