Happy 40th Birthday – Norridge!
Written & Compiled by Tamir Sharif (aka CinemarkFan)
Times change, and places come and go. But the Norridge Theater is a survivor.
NORRIDGE, IL — On June 26th 1970, M & R Amusements opened the Norridge, a then two screen theater located 5 blocks from the Harlem-Irving Plaza (H.I.P for short) in northwest suburban Norridge, Illinois. This theater quickly became a northwest side institution that has now outlived its predecessors that were once in the surrounding areas, such as the Mercury, Golf Mill, Lawrencewood (aka Niles Square), and Old Orchard (the ladder two being fellow M&R theatres). It has also outlived the Harlem Outdoor Theater, which stood directly across the street from the H.I.P. That opened 24 years before the Norridge, and closed in 1976. That is now the site of a busy strip-mall.
As a movie theater, 40 years in the business is no small feat, especially in this day and age, when you hear of megaplexes closing after a few years. Take the AMC Grand in Dallas, which is closing after 15 years operating. Or the Empire 20 in San Bernardino, which lasted just 8 years.
The Norridge didn’t make it to 40 years with just two screens. Around 1973-74, M&R added a third screen in the building. And by late 1976/early 1977, it became a four screener. 1977 was a memorable year for the theater, because Star Wars began a 27 week run (in 35mm) here on June 17th. I may be wrong, but that might be the longest run a movie has ever had here.
Around 1981-82 it became a 5 screener. Now here’s where it gets convoluted; it not too long after 1984, the building had 6 screens (and this side still does). But looking at ads from early 1986, it operated as a 7 screener. In 1987, M&R built 4 screens in another building next to the original. While this should’ve made it an 11 screener, it now had 10 screens. Perhaps they un-twined a screen the original building during the 1987-88 remodel?
In the later part of 1988, this theater along with the rest of M&R was bought by Loews, and then it became a part of Loews-Cineplex ten years later. In 2006, AMC took over after acquiring LC. The change in management hasn’t been too kind to the place, as it is in many ways, outdated compared to other state of the art multiplexes that have opened up in nearby suburbs, such as the Cinemark in Melrose Park, the Showplace 12 in Niles, or the Muvico in Rosemont. It’s less-than stellar appearance could be in fault of AMC, which has let many former Loews-Cineplex locations get run down. And being four decades old with no stadium seating, or 3-D projection, it may not fit in AMC’s business model.
It was recently threatened with closure/demolition when Costco announced plans for a store in the surrounding property. This land included Maurice Lennell cookies, which closed because of the announcement. Since then, Costco has moved on from their plans at Norridge, and is now looking to build on the site of Kiddieland in Melrose Park.
This announcement could mean good news for its future, but it would need a major remodel to keep up with the times. Not having stadium seating isn’t a death knell, but it’s a great cover story for money men who would want to replace the ‘old’ with what they see fit. But for now, it has made it to 40 years. It is a multiplex without having been torn down & rebuilt, it has shown movies (some in 70mm) that are now classics, and it has been around for 8 presidencies. What an accomplishment!
AMC could let the lease run out and close it this year or next, who knows. But for now, happy birthday! And here’s hoping that if AMC doesn’t remodel or close it, another operator can take the keys and give it a major makeover.
35mm presentations at the Norridge
The following films opened here on the dates listed. Some are considered classics. Readers may find that a few of these films however, are classics for the wrong reasons.
8/27/71 – Klute
10/1/71 —– McCabe and Ms. Miller
8/17/73 —– Westworld
12/21/73 —– The Laughing Policeman
1/17/74 —– Murder on the Orient Express
10/11/74 – Chinatown
10/17/75 —– Three Days of the Condor
2/27/76 —– Taxi Driver
6/25/76 —– The Omen
3/25/77 —– Slap Shot
4/1/77 —– Black Sunday
6/10/77 —– Rollercoaster (in Sensurround)
6/17/77 —– Star Wars (27 week engagement)
6/24/77 —– Sorcerer
12/16/77 —– Saturday Night Fever
10/25/78 —– Halloween
2/9/79 —– The Warriors
9/28/79 —– The Onion Field
9/28/79 —– When a Stranger Calls
5/9/80 —– Friday the 13th
6/20/80 —– The Blues Brothers
11/21/80 —– Shogun Assassin
6/4/82 —– Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
6/11/82 —– E.T.
7/9/82 —– The Thing
9/17/82 —– Pink Floyd: The Wall
4/15/83 – Flashdance
10/21/83 —– Rumble Fish
12/9/83 – Scarface
6/22/84 —– The Karate Kid
10/26/84 —– The Terminator
11/16/84 —– A Nightmare on Elm Street
12/5/84 —– Beverly Hills Cop
2/15/85 —– The Breakfast Club
5/3/85 —– Gymkata (you can guess why this is a classic)
5/22/85 —– Rambo: First Blood Part II
11/1/85 —– To Live and Die in L.A
11/1/85 —– Death Wish 3
11/27/85 —– Rocky IV
3/6/87 —– Lethal Weapon
6/12/87 —– Predator
12/11/87 —– Wall Street
12/18/87 —– Leonard: Part 6
7/20/88 —– Die Hard
10/7/88 —– Alien Nation
10/7/88 —– Tougher Than Leather
12/16/88 —– Rain Man
5/19/89 —– Road House
6/11/93 —– Jurassic Park (DTS sound)
8/6/93 —– The Fugitive
10/14/94 —– Pulp Fiction
9/22/95 —– Seven
12/15/95 – Heat
12/19/97 —– Titanic
70mm presentations at the Norridge
The Norridge played a good number of 70mm engagements, some of which are listed below
*Means unconfirmed 70mm presentation. This is due to the ad for a particular film advertising it in 70mm, but the directory for the theater not listing it in the format.
5/25/79 —– Alien (anamorphic blow-up)
5/21/80 —– The Empire Strikes Back (anamorphic blow-up)
6/12/81 —– Raiders of the Lost Ark (anamorphic blow-up)
12/17/82 —– The Dark Crystal (anamorphic blow-up)
9/30/83 —– Brainstorm (Super Panavision 70 & spherical blow-up)
10/21/83 —– The Right Stuff (spherical blow-up)
5/23/84 —– Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (anamorphic blow-up)
6/8/84 —– Ghostbusters (anamorphic blow-up)
12/7/84 —– 2010 (anamorphic blow-up)
12/14/84 —– Dune (anamorphic blow-up)
7/18/86 —– Aliens (spherical blow-up)
11/26/86 —– Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (anamorphic blow-up)
6/3/87 —– The Untouchables (anamorphic blow-up)
5/20/88 —– Willow (anamorphic blow-up)
5/24/89 —– Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (anamorphic blow-up)
6/23/89 —– Batman (spherical blow-up)
6/15/90 —– Dick Tracy (spherical blow-up)
6/15/90 —– Gremlins 2: The New Batch (spherical blow-up)
12/11/91 – Hook (anamorphic blow-up)
5/28/93 —– Cliffhanger (anamorphic blow-up)
Michael Coate (for info on the Star Wars engagement at Norridge), Chicago Sun Times and Chicago Tribune newspapers and microfilm ads.
Share your memories/thoughts & opinions on the Norridge below.