Willis Johnson Obituary, Death – Willis Johnson entered the movie theater business at a time when “old downtown theaters were out of favor,” as his son Chris Johnson recalled on Friday. When shopping malls reigned supreme, multiplexes were often no more than shoeboxes with no distinguishing architectural features. Chris has always been of the opinion that his father’s middle name, Gamble, is ideally suited for the film exhibition business.
But the risk paid off in the end. Through thick and thin, and sometimes through thin, to borrow an old line from Mel Brooks, the elder Johnson’s perseverance and dedication to his hometown of Downers Grove led to the expansion of the regional theater chain known as Classic Cinemas, which now has 16 locations and 137 screens across the states of Illinois and Wisconsin. Willis Gamble Johnson passed away on August 16, 2018, at the age of 86, and Classic Cinemas made the announcement of his passing via social media.
“He was one of the best guys in the business,” said his buddy and fellow suburban theater owner Dino Vlahakis, who is co-owner of the Park Ridge Pickwick Theatre. “He was one of the best guys in the business.” “He was a genuine showman, one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen in this field, and one of the nicest persons I’ve ever had the pleasure of interacting with. Always be truthful. Chris, his son, has the same behavior.
Tivoli Enterprises, Inc., which is owned and operated by the Johnson family, recently promoted Chris Johnson to the position of Chief Executive Officer of its Classic Cinemas subsidiary. In addition to that, he serves as the president of the state chapter of the National Association of Theatre Owners trade group. His first job was working for his father as an usher at the Downers Grove landmark that opened in 1928 known as the Tivoli Theatre.
It is now a beautifully refurbished 1,000-seat theater that is now making hay with “Barbie,” and it is complemented by a recently built boutique auditorium off the foyer that was named after his father: The Willis Theater. Earlier this week, the Tivoli marquee featured an homage to the deceased.