Biograph Theater

2433 N. Lincoln Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60657

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Showing 51 - 75 of 119 comments

ghamilton on October 17, 2006 at 3:02 am

Good article in the WA POST on the grand re-opening and festivities.

Broan on October 13, 2006 at 2:23 pm

Well yeah! I agree it looks cool. I’m just saying is all.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on October 13, 2006 at 2:18 pm

You know what? Entertain all the historical accuracy arguments you want. It looks pretty damn cool! Well done!!!

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on October 10, 2006 at 1:06 pm

Per the free newspaper SKYLINE (which is a neighborhood newspaper run by Pioneer Press), the marquee was lit on September 28, 2006.

No matter what some of the above posters have said, I’m GLAD that Victory Gardens took over the Biograph. It is wonderful that it will be used for performing arts instead of being converted to condos or retail or demolished. Let’s be real, the Biograph had been losing money for years as a cinema and that’s what would have happened to it had Victory Gardens not stepped in. I can’t wait to attend a play here.

TracyN on September 29, 2006 at 4:36 am

Brian – so sorry I missed you! I will be around the theater today at about noon – perhaps you can come by? I will also be around next week most days as well- I know you still want to get in the electrical room and see the plaster lady. I still have some facade work that will occur over the next few weeks, and would love to see the photos you have before I finalize. Thanks! Tracy

Broan on September 28, 2006 at 11:56 am

Thanks again for the reply, Tracy, I really do appreciate it. I’ll be there tonight, and i’ll bring photos, so we could perhaps discuss it? I wear a green jacket.

TracyN on September 28, 2006 at 9:13 am

Thanks for your feedback, Brian. There are a couple of points I would like to clarify. I am not sure what “ribbon” you mean, but it is my understanding have researched this that we have detailed it to the 30s look. The underside of the canopy is again a recreation of the 30s look. From all photos I saw the Essaness lettering did not look neonized, so we did not include neon in the Victory Gardens lettering. The lettering boards are an exact replica of the original lettering boards and use black channel letters that hook onto the sign. White letters would not show against the white background. No letters have been put up yet, as they arrived at the site approximately an hour ago. The areas that you refer to as gray texturized cement are not yet complete, so the current look does not relfect the finished look. The final look will be a black cement plaster with a high gloss finish, and yes, the poster cases are going back up. I don’t know where you saw the green pulsichrome terra cotta, there certainly was no evidence of it existing when we removed the metal panels that had been added in the eighties, and as we only have black and white photos available from that time, we can’t really speculate whether it may have been green at some point. Hope this helps!

Broan on September 27, 2006 at 7:45 pm

The marquee is now up and windows are in. The re-lighting ceremony will be tonight. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is quite historically accurate. These are the issues I saw: The new typeface for ‘Biograph’ is correct, but the outer ribbon as shown in Dillinger-era photos was evidently two distinctly colored thin ribbons, as opposed to the one thick one it is now. I’m guessing one ribbon was likely red and one yellow. The underside of the canopy is done in black semi-corrugated metal, as in the last iteration, but old photos as well as uncoverings during the removal of the old marquee show it was smooth and white. The Essaness lettering was neonized; the Victory Gardens lettering is not. The lettering boards are white movable lettering where the originals were reverse lettering. The new box office is in again and looks pretty good. So do the windows. The poster area is dark gray textured cement over sheetrock where vintage photos show what is likely glazed brick and poster cases. Maybe they’ll be putting up poster cases over that tomorrow, but that wouldn’t be accurate to the Dillinger-era anyway. The bases of the support piers should be green pulsichrome terra cotta to look like granite, but are instead painted. Overall it looks nice, and fresh, and certainly a major improvement, but it’s disingenuous to call it historically accurate, because it just isn’t.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on September 11, 2006 at 3:08 pm

I remember going here to see that Eddie Murphy/Red Fox gangster movie. Can’t remember the name now. It was after Cineplex Odeon spent some money on the place. Lobby was modernized (with smooth surfaces and lots of neon decoration) but the large auditorium still retained it’s original details (albeit under grey paint). New seating, new carpet. I think they added two cinemas in what had been a ballroom upstairs. Classic marquee and box office were still there. Sound was good in the main auditorium. One of my better movie-going recollections from the old days.

TracyN on September 11, 2006 at 6:49 am

Well as it turned out there was only ever on front face of the marquee, it was just painted over again and again. The sides and bottom were basically added onto twice, and punched through to get to the electrical feed. Those seem to have been recreated pretty close to what was there before, looking the same, but making the marquee wider and lower. The interior was very badly damaged from years of faulty roof drainage running through it. There was quite a lot of rust and it was structurally unsound. Interestingly, it was not actually attached to the building. It was mainly held up by the cables from above and the whole marquee slid into a pocket in the face of the building and just rested there.

The statue is in the electrical room in the south east corner of the building. We did not have a certificate of occupancy for that portion of the building, so you couldn’t get to it. It will not be in a public area, but I could walk you through if you’d like. And yes, that is the same area as the photos.

Sorry to have missed you Saturday, I was there from 3:30 on.

Broan on September 11, 2006 at 6:10 am

The facade is already looking far better with the cleaning and tuckpointing. Could you tell us a little more about what was found with the three marquees? The first one I assume was a plain canopy, and the third the one that is familiar to us, but what was the second? I was volunteering there saturday and no one seemed to know. I also somehow missed the Terra Cotta statue, where is that located? And is the blacked-out ceiling moulding in the entry vestibule one of the pieces in the above photos? Thanks.

Also, if you e-mail me i’d be happy to provide you with the photos I have.

It’s too bad there wasn’t more to be salvaged, but there are at least a handful of similar theaters around that are more or less still there, like the Calo, Lakeshore, Logan, Lakeside, Rosewood, Pickford, and Peerless.

TracyN on September 11, 2006 at 5:42 am

It is true that the interior has been completely redone and those features are gone (except for the two pieces Brian refers to above – the terra cotta statue he refers to is the last link he included in his comment, the lady with the shield – it is still in it’s original location. The facade is a different story – we are working to restore it in a historically accurate manner to the 1930s look. We are replacing the black tile that was added in the eighties with storefront as it originally was. The rest will be cleaned and repaired as needed to get us back to that 30s look.

Broan on September 10, 2006 at 2:32 pm

Here is a set of photos on flickr taken during the demolition. I think these are the features Tracy N referred to earlier. I think one part of these is still there, although now hidden partially by black paint and a ‘cloud’ ceiling decoration. Otherwise none of the original interior remains except for a terra cotta statue that was salvaged.

View link
View link

Broan on July 30, 2006 at 6:21 am

Here is an article with one of the better historical views of it that i’ve seen.

Broan on June 22, 2006 at 1:14 am

Here is a story about the work. Looks like they’re at least going to try fixing some historic features. I just don’t really even care anymore.

CinemarkFan on June 21, 2006 at 6:58 pm

Brian, the photos at that link looks like it was taken before CO took over.

CHICTH74 on June 21, 2006 at 5:30 pm

Just receved news about the Biograph the marquee(as seen in picture in description) is being removed and the theatre is to be renamed something like Victory Gardens At the Biograph. A new marquee is to be installed work crews were out their to day removing it.
I saw it on WGN-TV ch9 on the 9pm news cast.
The Chicago Historical Musueium from what i understand is in talkes to buy the marquee. The Biograph is on the National Regestary of Historical Places. Just thought you might want to know that information thank you for you time :)

Broan on June 17, 2006 at 2:17 pm

Here is a profile from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency’s HAARGIS system. It includes a small picture. Make sure to click the background information link to fully understand WHY it was put on the Register. Here is another that seems to be describing another building entirely but includes another picture.

Broan on June 17, 2006 at 2:16 pm

Here is a profile from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency’s HAARGIS system. It includes a small picture.Here is another that seems to be describing another building entirely but includes another picture.

VinnyK on May 22, 2006 at 7:20 pm

This really was the best turn of events for the long term future of the theater. There was no practical way that anyone was going to be able to keep it as a movie theater. Sure, they could restore it as a movie theater, but it would of cost a fortune to do so, and once the novelty wore off, it would of gone right back to being a failing business. Noone was going to take that on.

As for the inside being gutted, it’s not like there was all kinds of ornate interiors to be saved. The place had been done over so many times, there really wasn’t even anything left to save. The marquee was really the only thing that was ever that striking about the place, and as long as that is restored and maintained, I feel it’s a win-win-win, for the Theater, for the Victory Gardens, and for the neighborhood. To me, the only options were for a project such as the current one to be undertaken or for the theater to have remained vacant and continued to fall into further and further disrepair.

For those who were talking about Village’s short reign, my favorite part was when they left after their half-ass rennovation, they took everything they could with them — even the lightbulbs. If you look at the marquee today, you can see that all of the lightbulbs except for the top few rows were pulled out. The only reason that the top row’s still there is that the workers they had doing it couldn’t reach them from their scaffolding. It was pretty funny, I was watching them doing it.

Broan on April 28, 2006 at 3:21 pm

This has nothing to do with the Biograph, but since we’re discussing chicago landmarks, I think it’s appropriate. I think I found the house you were talking about. The first designated landmark demolished, the 1851 Rincker house, which stood opposite of Superdawg – now a parking lot for a dunkin donuts, I think – was demolished in 1980 following a suspicious, probably-arson fire (which only destroyed the interior of the salvageable building). It was the second-oldest in the city, and the only remaining example of German Gothic Revival architecture in Chicago, built of thick mud brick faced in timber. Interestingly, the demo permit for that was only issued as a result of an address mix-up, the same thing that happened with the Hayes-Healy gym on depaul last year (although that was not a landmark). 25 years, and they still haven’t figured out to list every concievable address of landmarks. As a footnote, prior to the present landmarks commission, an earlier 1957 organization with no enforcement power had designated 38 landmarks, 7 of which were later destroyed (Sullivan’s Garrick, Sullivan house, Meyer, and Stock Exchange; the Edison shop; the Cable building; and the Leiter I.)

Broan on April 27, 2006 at 8:24 am

Oh, they will. They’ve always used the marquee in their campaigns, etc, and continue to. And that is also protected under the landmarking. I’ll look into the farm house thing, that sounds totally unfamiliar to me. And I suppose i’ll drop my objection to the remodeling of the entrance, because poking my head inside I now see an ornate metal ceiling (or maybe just part of the original marquee) is visible where that had been.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on April 26, 2006 at 4:57 pm

Brian W, I am sure that more than one Chicago Landmark has bitten the dust. One was a farm house that was on the NW side near Devon and Milwaukee. It was about as old as the Clarke House on Indiana Ave. It actually had an “Indian Escape” room. In the late 1970s, it was bulldozed in the middle of the night so that the property owners could build a Dominick’s Foods.

But I digress. On another note, do you know if Victory Gardens is going to keep the Biograph name and the marquee? I think we can agree that at least THAT should be retained.

Broan on April 26, 2006 at 10:24 am

As far as I know, the only declared Chicago Landmark that has been demolished was the McCarthy building on Block 37. The Chicago landmarking should prevent issuance of permit without review to certify that it would not destroy the character of a landmark (which I would argue has happened here, which i’ll explain shortly). The interior of the Biograph, for whatever reason, is NOT among the protected interiors list [url=]here[/url}. Notice the Chicago, Uptown, and New Regal are. National Register protections prevent federal or state encroachment on historic properties, I believe. But in any case, the exterior should be protected. One of the things removed when the lobby was gutted inculded a deco “BIOGRAPH” sign above the doorway, which had been enclosed in the 80s when the doorway was moved forward to include the box office. It was an exterior component, though, and I think that may constitute an exterior alteration.