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Renovated Lake Forest Theater Will Bear John Hughes' Name

A donation to the Gorton Community Center will help transform its dated auditorium into the John and Nancy Hughes Theater.

This artist's rendering shows what the theater's entrance might look like after renovations.
This artist's rendering shows what the theater's entrance might look like after renovations.

Filmmaker John Hughes’ name will live on in Lake Forest, thanks to a donation from his widow.

Nancy Hughes has donated funds that will allow the Gorton Community Center to proceed with its plans to convert its auditorium into a space that will serve as both a state-of-the-art live performance venue as well as a movie house. In exchange, the transformed area will be named the John and Nancy Hughes Theater.

“I am elated to give my blessing to this theater named in memory of my late husband, John. He spent many of his best years, as a filmmaker and father, in the City of Lake Forest. Our family found it a fitting tribute to his film legacy, which often was set in Chicago’s North Shore,” Nancy Hughes said in a prepared statement.

The new theater will include: 

  • A new exterior entrance through the solarium, highlighted by a theater marquee over the east doors
  • A new interior entrance, featuring an elegant wall of glass to invite people into the space 
  • A modern sound and speaker system, including sound absorption panels
  • Digital lighting system
  • A monitoring and paging system that will allow communication between the backstage and dressing areas
  • A ceiling-mounted, theater-quality video projector and digital video player
  • A movie-theater quality screen for large format films 

Improvement plans for the auditorium were developed in 2012, but until now funding was not available to put them into action, Brenda Dick, the Gorton Community Center’s executive director, said.

John Hughes’ films included "Home Alone" and "The Breakfast Club."

The nonprofit Gorton Community Center underwent major renovations in 2000, when a new heating and cooling system were installed and the drop-in center was added. But while the theater was “refreshed,” its curtains date to the 1950s and its sound and lighting systems have been in place since the 1980s, Dick said.

“It’s been a patch-patch situation in the theater for a long time,” she said. “We don’t even have a ceiling-mounted projector in the theater.” 

With the new technology in place, Dick said she envisions the theater as a place where community members can watch documentaries and families can catch child-friendly films.

The renovated theater will continue to host productions by local groups, such as Lake Forest College, CenterStage Lake Forest and the Gorton Center’s own children’s theater program, PASTA.

But, she added, she expects the renovated venue to attract outside talent, as well, bringing new entertainment options to Lake Forest, “so you don’t have to drive to Chicago, you don’t have to pay for parking. It’s right here.” 

The Gorton Center will begin developing its final architectural plan this month. Renovations will begin once the plan is complete. While no timeline is in place, “We’re going to move forward efficiently because we want to have the new theater as soon as we can,” Dick said.

Dave Zimmerman January 08, 2014 at 09:52 AM
Thank you to the Hughes family for a great gift
Hummingbird_Lover January 08, 2014 at 12:36 PM
Bravo to the donation. Very generous indeed.
Louis G. Atsaves January 08, 2014 at 05:22 PM
Wow! This all sounds wonderful! Thank you Hughes family for making it happen!

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