Uptown Theatre

4816 N. Broadway,
Chicago, IL 60640

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Showing 401 - 425 of 452 comments

ford on August 26, 2004 at 3:21 am

So… this may seem a bit out there but, has anyone looked into a major promoter like House of Blues or Clear Channel for a funding source in this endeavor? It seems that there should be a clear and defined business plan in hand derived from past experience with the venue, yet there seems to be a real uncertainty as to what you’re going to use the venue for after it is restored. Perhaps the reality is that the demographics of the area won’t support a venue of this size. If this is the case it will have to relay on public funding to survive. It may be possible that a combination of public funding say… to buy and renovate in addition to corporate funding to maintain and promote its activity may be an appropriate (and only) means of survival.

It is easy to see how this kind of thing can let the wind out of your sail… Don’t give up! It ain’t that much money… Find a buyer that you can work with, or go door to door to raise the money to buy it back. Someone who apparently has no intentions doing any thing with it need no longer own it.

Perhaps approaching the current owner with a viable business plan could spark a renewed interest in the theater. If you can’t spark an interest you should be able to buy it cheep…

If the current owners are not making any money from the place and nobody is offering any real money to buy it then it’s not much more than a land mark in need of repair.

Sounds like a buyers market to me.

“the venue also served as a cinema, a television event broadcast venue, a rock-n-roll palace, a movie location (“Home Alone II,” “Backdraft,” “I Love Trouble” and “Soul Survivor”), a Chicago architectural and history tour destination (Chicago Architecture
Foundation, Chicago Neighborhood Tours and Theatre Historical Society of America) and a special events space (banquets, benefit dances and one wedding)”

CompassRose on August 23, 2004 at 9:22 pm

There is a new online signature drive regarding the Uptown Theatre. It is intended to increase awareness about the renovation and reuse potential of an important historic landmark and to document the public support that exists for its use as an entertainment venue. It is meant to be a friendly petition that allows signers to share their memories of and hopes for the Uptown Theatre. I welcome you all to sign it and pass along the link to your friends and family. Even if you don’t live in Chicago, consider signing the petition and let everyone know your thoughts regarding historic theatre preservation. If you have a success story about the restoration of a vintage theatre in your own hometown we’d love to hear it.

If you are interested in a hard copy version to help collect signatures of your neighbors who don’t have internet access, let me know. Just drop me an e-mail at

Thanks, Joanne


View link

uptownadviser on August 18, 2004 at 11:34 am

Friends of the Uptown
P.O. Box 409472
Chicago, IL 60640
Web site: http://www.uptowntheatre.com

For release Aug. 18, 2004

New ‘Faces of the Uptown Theatreâ€\ Calendar Released Online
Free publication a gift to fans and historians of Chicago

CHICAGO – “Faces of the Uptown Theatre,” the first calendar
published by Chicagoâ€\s Friends of the Uptown, was released
today in a free downloadable format by visiting the Web site
www.uptowntheatre.com The four-color, 2005 calendarâ€\s intent
is to launch celebration of the Uptown Theatreâ€\s 80th
anniversary (Aug. 18, 2005) while increasing public awareness
about the renovation and reuse potential of the endangered
historic building.

Subtitled “Our history in terra cotta, plaster and people,”
the calendar pays tribute to the architectural gargoyles of
the Uptownâ€\s elaborate Spanish Baroque-styled ornamentation
and to the international constituency of people who have
voiced support for renovating the Uptown Theatre. The
calendar is free, volunteers said, so that it will be shared
widely and will reward fans of Chicagoâ€\s history and
architecture who have supported many city landmarks through
memberships, donations, pledges, banquets and tours.

The Uptown Theatre, Chicago, 4816 N. Broadway, is the
nationâ€\s largest freestanding vintage theater building.
Opened as Balaban & Katz movie palace in 1925, it featured
custom stage shows, orchestras, organ music and silent
films. Before being closed in 1981, the venue also served as
a cinema, a television event broadcast venue, a rock-n-roll
palace, a movie location (“Home Alone II,” “Backdraft,” “I
Love Trouble” and “Soul Survivor”), a Chicago architectural
and history tour destination (Chicago Architecture
Foundation, Chicago Neighborhood Tours and Theatre Historical
Society of America) and a special events space (banquets,
benefit dances and one wedding). Designed by the Chicago
architecture firm of C.W. and George L. Rapp, the Uptown
Theatre shares a design and use heritage with the surviving
Central Park, Riviera, Chicago, Oriental and Gateway theater
buildings, all of which Rapp and Rapp designed for Balaban &

Friends of the Uptown is a volunteer advocacy
organization that was founded in 1998. Volunteers do
promotions and research in the effort to preserve the
building but do not solicit donations for it. The group
operates as an outreach activity of Landmark Uptown Theatre
Corp., an Illinois not-for-profit organization that owns the
Uptown Theatreâ€\s unique bronze and crystal chandeliers. All
of the fixtures that were not stolen or sold before this
arrangement were removed and stored in anticipation of the
buildingâ€\s renovation.

The Uptown Theatre building remains privately owned and is
awaiting a renovation and reuse project for entertainment of
some kind. You may learn more about the Uptown Theatre,
Chicago, and Friends of the Uptown via the Web site
http://www.uptowntheatre.com or by calling (773) 250-7665.


uptownadviser on August 18, 2004 at 11:30 am

(In an answer to the above comment, the theatre is not in “misery.” It is closed and in need of a renovation and reuse. The building is privately owned by Lunn Partners, of Chicago. While grassroots volunteer efforts like Friends of the Uptown are helpful and well-intentioned, the scope of the Uptown project requires support, cooperation and funding well beyond their imagined scope. “Friends,” for example, is a volunteer advocacy organization. They assist in promotion of the building. They do not portend to have the solution nor do they take donations for a privately owned building. The challenge is complex. The solution will have to be a well-organized, well-funded organization that cracks the riddle of what entertainment the building can serve and how a large-scale renovation can be paid for.)

rroberts on August 17, 2004 at 6:51 pm

Perhaps it is time for a “Summit Meeting” on the fate of the Uptown. Does the city really want to save the theatre? If SO, what do we do to help? If NOT, then tear it down and end the theatre’s misery. Does anyone know who REALLY owns the theatre? Why can’t the Alderman call for a special public meeting to gather input? What of all those groups hovering over the theatre? Can they bury the hatchet amd meet in the same room for once? By the way, Bryan K., those are great photos of the interior. How old are they? Who took them?

bruceanthony on August 6, 2004 at 10:39 pm

I think the City of Chicago needs to get behind the Uptown restoration.The Uptown is the perfect midsize venue for concerts.Maybe the City should have a chat with Clear Channel who operate and book theatres like the Wiltern in LA and Warfield in San Francisco.The current Mayor helped get the ball rolling for the restoration of the Oriental and the Palace to help revitalize the Loop, the restoration of the Uptown could help the Uptown district as well.The longer the City waits the more expensive the project will become. I think the Uptown could be restored for $30 Million. The theatre was never divided or altered.The City should at least spend the money to stabalize the building regardless of who owns it.brucec

richardg on August 6, 2004 at 9:34 pm

Probably the most spectacular theatre I’ve been in, and I’ve been inside hundreds. I grew up going to the Uptown theatre despite having to take two buses to get there. The last time I was inside the Uptown it was just a shell of its former self. I saw the inside of the theatre for the last time on the very day it made the switch from English to Spanish films. It had been purchased by the family that owned the Peoples theatre. Their 12 year old son gave me quite an extensive tour. All the huge oil paintings along the staircases had been removed and the auditorium had been painted completely black.
The Chicago Tribune magazine section from April 25, 1993, did a great article with pictures about the Uptown theatre, titled, “A Movie Palace In Search Of A Happy Ending”. Fortunately, its still standing but I doubt the ending will be happy. I think it’d cost a 100 million to restore it back to its original glory. The Tribune (at the time of printing of this article) list the Uptown as “the country’s largest theatre in square feet”

rroberts on July 16, 2004 at 6:39 am

I live in the neighborhood and went to a recent court case for the Uptown. Finally, the City of Chicago has ordered a “Critical Examinination of the Uptown Theatre.” (In Building Court) It seems that the group “holding title” is forced to do some real work on the theatre’s exterior. I heard that an engineering firm had been retained and must start work soon. This may be the first time any group in the last 20 years has put any real money into the building constructively. What happened to all those groups trying to save the theatre? Looks like no postings since February on this site. Have we missed something?

uptownadviser on February 6, 2004 at 4:26 pm

Yes. Let’s not clutter up Cinema Treasures any more.

Uptown Adviser is not a message board. It is a newsletter/mailing list. It will advise of any opportunities, events, etc. You may also contact volutneers directly via email, , or by voicemail, (773) 250-7665.

Until such time there is funding for stabilization, or a viable prospect of some kind, there is really no point in getting people excited. Depending on how the building is reused and to what degree it is renovated, the project is easily a $40 million venture.

Many Friends of the Uptown will be participating in the Feb. 15 show at the CENTRAL PARK, Chicago. See Events for details.

JMassanova on February 6, 2004 at 3:03 pm

Hi, thanks for the link to the yahoo site. I read the posting, but would like to know is there a time/place where people meet in person? I’m not a huge fan of message boards.

uptownadviser on February 4, 2004 at 9:23 am


The Uptown has been closed since 1981. Several special events, tours and movie locations have happened there by special permission in the past two decades. However, it remains closed to the public, for sale, and at issue in building and foreclosure courts.

If you want to see the interior, I would suggest getting the special Uptown edition of Marquee magazine from Theatre Historical Society of America (THSA), http://www.historictheatres.org It contains a lot of stunning vintage 1925 views, and explains the building’s importance.

If you were to visit Chicago in April, I would suggest the following tour, which is hosted by the Chicago Office of Toursim/City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. You can’t beat it.

  • April 17. Visit three of the city’s beloved theatrical gems: the Auditorium Theatre, the Ford Center for the Performing Arts/Oriental Theatre and the Aragon Ballroom. Historian Joseph DuciBella takes you behind the scenes and provides a backstage look at the lives of the people who designed these magnificent buildings and the productions that once played there.


In lieu of an April visit and tour, I would suggest getting the THSA Chicago Conclave edition of Marquee magazine and doing your own tour, based on the theatres and addresses listed therein. The magazine covers more than 20 of Chicago’s best remaining theatres.

MarkW on February 4, 2004 at 9:09 am

I will be in Chicago for a week in early March. Is it safe to assume if I go to the Uptown, There is no way to see inside?

uptownadviser on February 3, 2004 at 11:35 am


Great! Please sign up via


and read the most recent message, including “What you can do.”

JMassanova on February 3, 2004 at 10:21 am

I’ve lived in Uptown for 3 years now and have been very interested in the preservation of the Uptown for all of that time. I have no way to know how I may help you in this but am hoping that there is something I can do. I will check back here to see if there are any posts, and am looking forward to talking with you.

sdoerr on December 11, 2003 at 5:17 pm

What a nice theatre, definitely a favorite.

PaulWarshauer on October 24, 2003 at 4:43 am

The scaffolding around the Uptown Theatre came down today. The scaffolding folks have not been paid and a judge ordered it removed. The case lingers in building court with the City of Chicago searching for the legal owner. The owner is bankrupt. (FYI: He is not bankrupt because of this project.) The UTCA mentioned earlier in this posting (Morrison, Zipperer, Carlson, et al.) faces civil and criminal charges and has squandered over one million dollars without putting a dime into the building! What a mess. Folks: This could mark an exciting new chapter in the history of this magnificent movie palace. The not for profit groups that have tried to buy it have failed. Perhaps a new approach to operating a theatre this size is necessary. We believe that we have the answer. Call Paul with the Uptown Performance Centre, LLC at (773) 202-1010 for further information and for a unique investment opportunity.

scottg on October 18, 2003 at 10:53 pm

I really hope that something is being done to save this place, it could be a true Gem, a great theater of the Nation.

BrendanMcKenna on April 9, 2003 at 10:37 am

Here is the original column that provides the background to my post on April 4, 2003, from David Roeder, columnist for the Chicago Sun Times:

“UPTOWN CALAMITY: The nonprofit Uptown Theatre and Center for the Arts is making progress toward its goal of raising $5 million to buy and refurbish the glorious Uptown Theatre, 4816 N. Broadway. So said Carol Jean Carlson, the group’s chief executive. The group has said that for two years now, even as it has burned through almost $1 million of benefactor Albert Goodman’s money, while the 4,381-seat theater remains vacant. Carlson said up to $100,000 was squandered by a former chief executive now on the lam.

Then there was the former chief executive’s replacement, who quit and claimed the group owed him $10,000. And now there’s a dispute with a former chairman of the organization, developer Paul Warshauer, who was dumped from the board. Carlson said a lawsuit will be filed against Warshauer for misdeeds she wouldn’t specify. “He was removed for cause,‘’ was all she would say.

Warshauer could not be reached. Carlson said the group has spent $250,000 as a down payment for the theater and $400,000 on consultants for architectural and environmental studies. She cites that as progress. But with the group showing scant ability to acquire and manage the property, it sounds more like the Uptown Theatre has become a cash cow for insiders. “Money before performance” seems to be the motto. The city has acted aggressively to force sales of blighted property. It’s time it saves the Uptown."

BrendanMcKenna on April 9, 2003 at 10:34 am

From the April 9, 2003 column of David Roeder in the Chicago Sun Times:

“Also, developer Paul Warshauer, past chairman of the Uptown Theatre and Center for the Arts, said he forced the group to oust him because of his complaints over its practices. The nonprofit organization wants to buy and renovate the Uptown Theatre at 4816 N. Broadway. It has burned through nearly $1 million with little to show for it.

Warshauer said that despite what the group’s leader said in this space last week, it has squandered $250,000 by not closing a contract to purchase the theater. There also are questions about $30,000 the group collected when it raffled a Jaguar, a prize it does not own and has yet to bestow."

BrendanMcKenna on April 4, 2003 at 11:29 am

There was a recent article that summarized the financial mismanagement at the organization set up to renovate the Uptown. This includes a director running off after charging up a storm using organization credit cards; the resignation of the next director after only 6 months (Zipperer); a top heavy staff of 8 (what do they do all day); the excessive use of a $1 million donation; the failure of one after the other of fundraisers (including to auction off a used Jaguar that was the “property” of the missing director)-bottom line, it seems like if the Uptown is to be saved, it needs a radically new direction. The latest plan seems slightly off (to purchase rental properties adjacent to the theatre to gain the rental income). Uptown is still a slightly seedy neighborhood, so I am not sure how much income will come from renting (currently, it appears the spaces are empty to begin with). At this point, I don’t see how progress can be made to save the theatre. Shame!

JamesAPierce on March 18, 2003 at 7:59 pm

A response to: jezmundv

True, the building has been closed since 1981 and is in need of renovation. But what, if I may inquire with all due respect, do you know of its engineering? It is engineered for all time and maintenance continues …

To my knowledge the building is kept secure and viable by its present private owners. Heat is provided on winter’s coldest days when needed. All is not lost!

It remains protected by local and national landmark laws. It has a large constituency on many levels. True, no recent prospect has consummated a purchase or renovation. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen or that prospective investors are not interested and working. State and local leaders have expressed interest and support again and again.

I believe it will be renovated to serve the public through entertainment of some kind. Stay tuned.

Please view uptowntheatre.com and subscribe to Uptown Adviser via http://groups.yahoo.com/group/uptownadviser/ for up to date info.

jezmundv on March 11, 2003 at 8:14 pm

The building is unfortunately a mess. Water damage and building engineering problems have caused a steady deterioration of the property in a neighborhood that is steadily starting to come around. The City of Chicago has it’s sites set on the Rivera theater across the street to spend it’s money on to renovate. None of the groups that have made attempts to buy the theater have gotten their act together.

There is a scaffold around the theater now. Before long you will see and Omega or National Wrecking sign on it and they will quickly finish the job that was started when the building was first abandoned without heat.

MichaelBeyer on February 19, 2003 at 4:05 pm


CHICAGO (February 19, 2003)

The not-for-profit Uptown Theatre and Center for the Arts (UTCA) announces ‘Bring Back the Brilliance,’ a gala benefit, Friday, March 21, at 7 pm at Northwestern School of Law, Thorne Auditorium, located at 375 E. Chicago Avenue. Tickets for the evening are $75 per person or $125 per couple. For reservations call 773-561-5700. Proceeds from the event, which will include a vintage fashion show, live swing music, light fare and cash bar, will support programming and operational expenses for the UTCA during the year.

The evening will commence with a reception in the lobby with hors d'oeuvres and live swing music provided by Speakeasy Entertainment. The main attraction will be an elaborately staged vintage fashion show assembled by producer, director, and award-winning designer William T. Buster. Showcasing spectacular American fashions from 1925 to 1963, the garments recall the glamorous styles of Hollywood’s Golden Age, paying tribute to the great history of the legendary Uptown Theatre. The collection consists of evening wear, daywear, outerwear, hats, furs, jewelry, lingerie, and bridal fashions. Following the fashion show there will be dancing in the lobby, with Speakeasy Entertainment playing a variety of classic big-band and disco favorites from the heyday of the Uptown Theatre.

Businesses or individuals that are interested in sponsorship opportunities for this high-visibility gala event should contact the UTCA at (773) 561-5700.

Often cited as a pivotal piece in the redevelopment of the Uptown neighborhood, the Uptown Theatre is the country’s largest freestanding theatre building in terms of square footage. Built in 1925 and designed by famed Chicago architects Rapp & Rapp, the Uptown Theatre was the crown jewels of the national Balaban & Katz movie palace empire. Shuttered since 1981, the Uptown has been listed as one of ‘America’s Most Endangered Historic Places’ by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places, the Illinois Historic Structures Survey, and is protected as a Chicago Landmark.

The Uptown Theatre and Center for the Arts is a 501©(3) not-for-profit corporation created in March 2001 to purchase and restore the Uptown Theatre to its former prominence. Comprised of professionals with backgrounds in business administration, finance, theatre, and community development, the group’s efforts have given life to the most credible effort yet to save the neglected theatre. Upon restoration, the theatre’s physical space will be used to present a broad spectrum of programming designed to entertain and educate the diverse people who live in the Uptown neighborhood and the surrounding region, and will become a world-class center for the arts.

For more information on the Uptown Theatre and Center for the Arts, visit www.uptowntheatrechicago.org.