The turn of the Century: Residents, alumni bid farewell to shuttered downtown theatre


Maia Spoto/Daily Senior Staffer

Downtown Evanston’s Century 12 movie theatre. Since the pandemic’s onset, the theatre has faced economic loss and eventually shut its doors for good in February.

Nick Francis, Assistant Arts & Entertainment

Resident Nick Anderson (Weinberg ‘19) said Evanston’s Century 12 movie marked the “halcyon age” of his college life.

He said his most prominent memories at Century 12 were not of sitting in vivacious rooms with animated moviegoers, but of more intimate connections the theatre facilitated with friends.

“I remember being there to see ‘Call Me by Your Name’ and crying with a friend of mine sitting next to me in the movie theatre,” he said. “It was really cool to see how the Northwestern community was experiencing these cultural moments together.”

Century 12 announced it would shut down indefinitely last March at the pandemic’s onset. But as time drug its feet — first March, then summer, fall and finally winter — coronavirus lockdowns stayed planted and revenues stalled. Finally, the Evanston RoundTable reported last week the downtown theatre was closing, permanently.

Paul Zalmezak, the city’s economic development manager, told the RoundTable a loophole in the lease agreement between Century 12/Cinemark theatres and the Stockbridge Capital Group, which owns the Church Street Plaza development, allowed Cinemark to terminate its lease. Evanston is actively searching for a firm to fill Century 12’s place, but it could take up to 18 months before the selection process ends.

As the theatre shuts its doors, Evanston residents are rallying behind its memory and mourning the loss of the downtown treasure.

Resident Daniel Kong (Weinberg ‘20) recalled one of his most exciting Century 12 escapades. Instead of finishing a final project due in 12 hours, he chose to see “Mulan” with his friends — submitting his project after he returned at 1:15 a.m.

If he had a chance to try the night again, Kong said, he wouldn’t have changed a thing. Kong said he revels in the memories the theatre brought.

“I think what made the theatre great was watching movies that I probably wouldn’t normally,” he said, owing to its hefty student discount. “Those are probably the most fun moments — just being there, with a friend.”

Evanston Township High School senior Alex Johnson said he has frequented the theatre since he was a little kid. One of his earliest memories at Century 12 was seeing “Kung Fu Panda” as a reward for doing well in school.

Johnson added he loves talking about movies, and running into like-minded friends who also often patronized the theatre gave him ample time for quality conversation.

Century 12, he said, also brought him a sense of growth and identity as his childhood years irreversibly waned.

“It always would be my happy place,” Johnson said. “When I turned 17, one of the things I’d been most excited for was being able to go see R-rated movies on my own — Century 12 marked milestones of my life.”

Johnson said it’s unlikely anything will come around that can have such an indelible impact on his life. He grew up as it grew old, and the theatre has stood beside him as his love for movies has blossomed.

Now, he has to say goodbye.

“We’ll go to other theatres, but it’s definitely not going to be the same,” he said. “It’s going to feel different, like we’re missing something.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @nick24francis

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