First opened on Christmas Day, 1928, the Tivoli became the second theater in the United States to show talkies-movies that included sound. The first theater to do so was the Brooklyn Paramount theater, which showed its first picture with sound a month prior to the Tivoli. This historic theater offers a glimpse into the style of the late 1920s and continues to operate as a historic theater.
The Tivoli stands as a reminder of lavish theaters of the Roaring Twenties, but it also represents the evolution of Chicago, its suburbs, and the separation of classes. The theater exists in a suburb - Downers Grove -- where many affluent, or at least economically comfortable, residents moved as the city of Chicago aged and became populated by Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, and other minorities. As a main train stop connection Chicago to Downers Grove, the suburb's population grew in the early 20th century. Those with means purchases housing in the western suburb of Chicago and easily commuted to work in the city via the train. For instance, as early as 1892, just north of the Belmont railroad station, wealthy Chicago business leaders, including Marshall Field, founded the first nine-hole golf course west of the Appalachians. Meanwhile, the city showed signs of aging with houses in disrepair, and many of those structures will filled by migrating African Americans after World War I, often referred to as the Great Migration. The influx of black Americans coupled with aging structures, and plenty of preexisting city slums, fostered an era of white flight, Indeed, 99.7% of residents in 1920s Downers Grove were white.1The white residents with money to spend could easily afford nights to the theater, among other leisurely activities. The construction of the Tivoli occurred simultaneously (and in the same building) as a bowling alley opened, as well as billiards, a hotel with dining room, barber shop and stores. The theater culture of the Roaring Twenties arose with a booming economy and represented a time when people had money to spend.2Movies also resembled the evolution of technology in the U.S. and the post-industrial world. When the Tivoli opened on Christmas Day, 1928, it was the second theater (only one month behind the Brooklyn Paramount theater) to show talkies. 4,000 people stood in line to see the first movie at the Tivoli, paying 15 cents for children and 40 cents for adults. On holidays and Sundays the adult admission was 50 cents..3