August 22, 1937

The Pantagraph
, Bloomington’s daily newspaper, reports on plans to build a movie theater on North Street in downtown Normal. The article includes a rendering of the Art Moderne exterior by Bloomington architect Arthur F. Moratz. The theater will be owned by Sylvan and Ruth Kupfer and operated by the chain Publix Great States Theatres.

November 19, 1937

Grand opening! In the midst of the Great Depression the Normal opens with the Bing Crosby musical Double or Nothing.

November 21, 1937

What’s the second movie to play at the Normal? Raoul Walsh’s Artists & Models starring Jack Benny and Ida Lupino.

April 22, 1953

Building owner and longtime manager Sylvan Kupfer, Sr. dies

December 15, 1974

Springfield, Ill.-based chain Kerasotes Brothers takes over the Normal Theater from Publix Great States (and the Irvin, Bloomington’s premier movie house, as well).

January 8, 1982

Dark days: Kerasotes closes the Irvin while the Normal becomes a “dollar house”—all tickets $1. Terry Gilliam’s whimsical Time Bandits is the first discount show.

January 31, 1982

Temporary closure resulting from stalled negotiations over the year-to-year lease

March 19, 1982

Theater reopens with the Paul Newman drama Absence of Malice.

May 3, 1985

The horror! The horror! The Normal is “twinned” with the balcony given its own screen. The “grand opening” features the incongruous pairing of Porky’s Revenge and The Killing Fields. “Still only a dollar!”

November 17, 1989

Regular ticket pricing returns, at least for a while.

May 16, 1991

“Curtain pulled,” says The Pantagraph. The Normal closes as commercial enterprise, bowing out with Kindergarten Cop and Oliver Stone’s The Doors.

November 1991

Saved! The Town of Normal comes to rescue and purchases theater, and will soon embark on an ambitious $1 million restoration effort.

October 7, 1994

Premier night redux: The Normal reopens as a town-run venue, the theater restored to its spit-and-polish Art Moderne heyday. The opening features the 1952 musical Singin’ in the Rain.

October 8, 1994

What’s the second movie to play at the restored Normal? Woody Allen’s Broadway Danny Rose.

Oct. 20-24; 26-29, 1994

First annual Dan Craft Film Festival. As the longtime film critic of The Pantagraph, Craft picks some of his favorites, including Vertigo, The Searchers, and The Big Sleep.

December 10, 1994

Start of a great relationship: Twin City residents flock to the Normal to see the all-time classic Casablanca. Bogey’s classic will return on a semi-regular basis.

December 22-23, 1994

Ho ho ho! The Normal celebrates the holiday season with A Christmas Story and White Christmas. The tradition continues—20 years later!

April 2-9, 1995

Acclaimed documentary Hoop Dreams draws sold out crowds.

May 25-28, 1995

The granddaddy of them all: Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane makes its debut at the “new” Normal.

June 19, 1995

A showing of John Frankenheimer’s cult classic Seconds (1966) includes an appearance by Tony Award-winning actor John Randolph, who plays the “older” version of the Rock Hudson character.

September 30, 1995

Gala to “welcome home” McLean and Ann Stevenson, “Mac” having played Lt. Col. Henry Blake on M*A*S*H. Proceeds from event help finish the restoration project.

December 16, 1995

Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my! The Wizard of Oz makes its debut at the restored Normal (and it would return the following weekend).

June 7, 1996

Town of Normal receives Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois’ “Preservation Project of the Year” award.

September 1996

Shaken, not stirred. It’s an old school, Connery-only Bond fest over back-to-back-to-back Thursday through Sundays: From Dr. No to Diamonds Are Forever.

November 19, 1996

Beyond Normal Films (BNF), a non-profit volunteer organization, begins its productive partnership with the Normal that continues today. The first BNF pick? The Italian film Il Postino.

August 9, 1997

Officially historic: The Pantagraph announces that the Normal Theater was added to the prestigious National Register of Historic Places.

October 6-9, 2005

Four-day Indy Horror Festival showcases smaller independent films, most from the Chicago area. Fest includes an appearance by Chicago character actor Daniel Roebuck and the cast of Grave’s End.

September 23, 2006

The Manhattan Short Film Festival makes its first appearance at the Normal, and it’s been a fall favorite ever since. Moviegoers from across the globe watch the same series of shorts and at the end of the weekend vote on their favorites!

October 26-29, 2006

Dan Craft’s “Hitchcock after Dark” Film Festival: The Birds, Notorious, Rebecca, and Strangers on a Train.

May 10-13, 2007

And the Oscar goes too… One of the Normal’s more intriguing annual offerings debuts—the annual screening of Academy Award-nominated shorts in the live action, animated, and documentary categories.

May 5, 2008

The Normal says goodbye to projectionist Todd Hoback (who is moving to Las Vegas) with a farewell party at the theater.

October 5-10, 2010

The first “Your Normal LGBT Film Festival” includes the documentary Stonewall Uprising and the downtown Illinois premiere of Howl with James Franco. The annual festival continues into the present.

July 11, 2013

Goodbye analog, hello 21st century! Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha! becomes the first Normal feature shown on the new DCP-4K Digital Projection System. The Normal Theater now offers a state-of-the-art moviegoing experience within a richly historic setting. How cool is that?

Bill Kemp, McLean County Museum of History librarian, compiled this page. The nationally accredited, award-winning local history museum is located on the historic Museum Square in the heart of downtown Bloomington. Please check them out at www.mchistory.org.