Uptown Theatre

4816 North Broadway,
Chicago, IL 60640

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wurl240
wurl240 on July 16, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Does the Uptown have a concrete roof? I would guess it would. Seems to be those wood and tar paper theatre roofs that allow water in to destroy interiors. I would hope Uptown would be “land-banked”. Keep a
roof on it with adequate down spouts and try to heat in the winter.
I greatly admire those who are/have been working to keep this outstanding B&K house from total destruction.

paullewis
paullewis on April 11, 2009 at 10:31 pm

I find it very distressing that the future of the Uptown still remains in doubt despite the wonderful efforts of the “friends” to keep it in the public eye.
Having looked extensively in many publications relating to the great movie palaces of the past (I have a first edition of “Best Remaining Seats” plus many other later books) I have concluded that not only is the Uptown the finest survivor in the world of this genre but was without doubt one of the top 3 or 4 movie palaces ever built. To my mind only the New York Roxy and Capitol were better and some would argue the Fox San Francisco, although for me it was a bit too over the top.
Because of its unique status today its demise would rank with the demolition of Penn Station New York in 1963 as one of the greatest acts of public vandalism in American history.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on April 2, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Renew notification test.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on March 14, 2009 at 3:08 am

I guess the link no longer works.
The Sun-Times article was basically about Ald. Smith trying to get/force? JAM to partner with Live Nation on a future for the Uptown Theatre.
Even though there were possible conflicts of interest on Live Nation’s part since they already supposedly have contracts with the city either at Northerly Island (Miegs Field), or elsewhere for Summer festivals.
Also JAM apparently has issues with Live Nation a competitor, apparently previously trying to cause JAM headaches.

I just read on CT’s Capitol Music Hall(Wheeling, WV) page, that Live Nation sold that venue for $615,000 after supposedly seeking $800,000 in 2007.
A building that also housed recording studios, offices etc. A promoters dream space I would think. Besides, don’t they already own House Of Blues?

So maybe it best that Live Nation never get their hands in or on the Uptown.
The Uptown is likely out of their league.
The Capitol Music Hall only needed $2-8 million+ worth of work.

As far as Ald. Smith pushing for a JAM/Live Nation partnership, she should probably do more homework on Live Nation. Hometown JAM is a better fit for the Uptown on their own. Especially since they made the effort to buy it on their own. After no one else would.
Again, Who is Ald. Smith to tell JAM who to work with on their property? And again, if she wanted Live Nation’s involvement because of their past city ties, why didn’t she get them to buy it in the first place.
In retrospect, it sounds like she wanted someone else to pay for the place and it’s problems, then sweep in Live Nation and their money to “help” get it up and running.
If Live Nation didn’t want to spend $2 million to fix up an already operational music venue, what’s going to be their part in a $30 million dollar renovation? Their expertise?

Bing00
Bing00 on March 9, 2009 at 4:08 am

What was that Sun Times article?

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on January 11, 2009 at 3:03 am

Geez. Why didn’t Ald. Smith just have Live Nation show up and buy it at the auction? I read where even JAM was surprised that they themselves were the only bidders.
Why wait til JAM lays out the front money, and then attempt to dictate what they do with THEIR property?
Only in Chicago.

uptownjen
uptownjen on January 11, 2009 at 2:41 am

Sadly, the problems with Uptown owners continue…I couldn’t be more disappointed.

View link

spectrum
spectrum on November 12, 2008 at 9:20 pm

Haven’t seen URL’s posted for these two great photo galleries on flickr:

The first has 51 photos posted in August 2007 and June 2008, about a third exterior, 2/3 interior shots.

View link

The second has six interior shots from 2007:

View link

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on November 7, 2008 at 9:46 pm

One of the more interesting shots I have seen:

View link

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on October 18, 2008 at 11:15 am

I forgot to mention that the Aragon had a sister ballroom around 63rd & Cottage Grove, called The Trianon. I’ve seen some interior pics posted around the net before. It was quite opulant with recessed oval lighting, giant lounges and expensive furniture as would be expected of a theatre type space of it’s vintage.

The Trianon was open from the early 20’s until the late 50's. Then left vacant and torn down in the60’s.
I think I read that they had certain house rules about chaperones, unaccompanied women and interracial dancing to accomodate changing times.

When I worked at Fanning Cadillac on Broadway & Foster, we had a longtime Balmoral neighborhood greeter of Japanese descent, who said she was barred from patronizing the Aragon Ballroom during and shortly after World War II. Some of her famliy had been interred as well. She was a sweetheart of a lady named Dahli, who had a wealth of knowledge about the Uptown neighborhood. Sadly she passed away maybe ten year ago.

Like the Aragon, the Trianon would sometimes do live radio broadcasts of jazz bands at dance events. Some on WGN, and some later transferred to 78rpm records.

Jayne1955
Jayne1955 on October 10, 2008 at 2:16 am

The floor of the Aragone ball room was built on some kind of spring suspension, so that 8,000 people polka-ing on it would not wind up falling through to the lobby floor. That was one cool building in its day. In the 60’s it was painted with day-glow paint and renamed the Cheeta. Yuck! That was the low point of its life. But no, it isn’t exactly the same situation as a theatre. It was commisioned to Huzach and Hill, but designed by John Eberson, who is well known to theatre buffs, though.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on October 8, 2008 at 11:50 pm

Greetings. Both the Aragon and Riviera I’d say are considerably smaller than the Uptown. The Uptown boasted “an acre of seats”. So the stage to accomodate a crowd that big would be quite large.
The load-in I’ve seen most at the Riviera, is through a door on on the Lawrence Avenue side. Semi trucks and/or tour buses usually remain parked on the South side of Lawrence as well.
I think trucks/tour buses are currently barred from the North side of Lawrence, because of an existing CTA bus stop and to insure traffic flow.
Since they’ve done primarily just bands since it stopped showing movies, I’d say no elaborate sets were ever really part of the mix.

The Aragon has an alley between itself and the “L” tracks to the West. I’ve seen that alley blocked off before, but also some obvious band trucks & buses in a small corner lot kitty corner and to the East.
Remember too that the Aragon was a ballroom, not a theater. It has a huge oval like dance floor on the second floor. With a stage on the South end of the building. The seats during the ballroom days were along the sides with tables, and above on balconies overlooking the dance floor.
The first floor is just lobby space, some offices and retail storefronts. Used to contain pool halls & liquor stores etc.
Some concerts I remember in the 70's &80’s at the Aragon, they would set up temporary folding seats over the old ballroom floor, facing the stage. Nugent, Ramones(like you sat for that), Aldo Nova, Cheap Trick, Stray Cats, Rick “Elvis” Saucedo, etc.
I don’t know if they bother with any chairs at shows now.

So the load-in for a renovated Uptown beyond just bands again, would take some serious planning. Most likely as I had posted before, somehow incorporating the side street to the West, and possibly making an actual loading dock, out of what used to be an exit with a smaller marquee overhang as I remember.

mp775
mp775 on October 8, 2008 at 3:56 pm

How is loading at the Riviera and Aragon? I’m sure those venues have hosted concert tours with elaborate sets, and both face similar loading constraints to the Uptown.

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on October 3, 2008 at 8:22 pm

Im sure the loading duck issue could be resolved when the theatre is operational and restored. The Uptown would not be booking Broadway shows, these are presented in the Loop. I hope the new owners will immediately stabilize the theatre to prevent any more damage. I would like to see more positive statements about the future use of the Uptown and its size which is perfect for todays touring musical acts. The huge Midland in Kansas City just reopened with the type of acts that could be booked into the Uptown booked by AEG. The huge Fox in Oakland will reopen in January booked by Another Planet again with the type of acts that could play the Uptown. I think there are enough Music acts to book both the Chicago and the Uptown since this is the 3rd largest market in the US behind only New York City and L.A. Even Detroit which is half the size of Chicago has restored the Fox,State,Opera House,Music Hall along with the Fisher which is being renovated and the Masonic Temple Theatre. The Uptown is the largest not restored theatre in the Country. I think the Uptown would have been restored much earlier if it hadn’t been for City Politics and some dubious owners. The restored Uptown would give a huge boost to the Uptown district and the City should spend money improving the infrastructure in the area such as parking,sidewalks and street lighting to fully realize the potential of the Uptown District.brucec

Jayne1955
Jayne1955 on October 1, 2008 at 11:44 pm

I still think they took the lift from the Nortown, because it was in better shape than anything else they had to work with, but I could be wrong.

timtrotter44
timtrotter44 on October 1, 2008 at 7:09 am

The Barton Organ in Sally’s stage came from the old Montclair theater. It was sold to the owners by Catoe when the theatre was torn down.

Jayne1955
Jayne1955 on August 29, 2008 at 1:50 pm

Yes. If you haven’t actually seen it, you don’t undestand the set up there. That’s not an insult. That’s a fact.

Fredrickr
Fredrickr on August 29, 2008 at 4:27 am

While parking would be just one of many issues that the Uptown faces, the one that is probably the biggest is the the lack of dock space for the loading and unloading of shows. The stagehouse is parallel to Lawrence Ave, with only the sidewalk between the back wall of the theater and the street. Most traveling shows today travel with many, many semi trucks loaded with scenery, costumes etc. The street that runs behind the theater (N Magnolia) is just a residential side street and would be less than ideal to unload trucks on. And the parking lot behind, while it is fairly large, would be difficult to use during the winter months, imagine unloading “Phantom of the Opera” in a Chicago snowstorm and having to wheel everything across N Magnolia!

TeamUptown
TeamUptown on August 29, 2008 at 3:23 am

Hurdle # 1
Jam is the official title holder of the Uptown Theater.

ron1screen
ron1screen on August 28, 2008 at 10:04 pm

I don’t know anything about Chicago but I can say that Parking in Seattle is no problem. There is street parking and there are garages all within walking distance of the Seattle Paramount. Maybe some deal will have to be reached with neighboring business to allow parking.

Jayne1955
Jayne1955 on August 26, 2008 at 3:12 pm

Dr. Jazz! That was it! Thank you! I was really frustrated I couldn’t remember the name. I went there often. I know I’m getting senile, but I should have remembered that. My aunt owned the Montrose Food and Dairy store right across the street on Montrose, until a robber beat the hell out of her and left her for dead behind the counter. She recovered, but she was never the same. After that no one in the family ever went back to the neighborhood. Too many bad memories. My mom and I had to go into the store and clean up all the blood off of everything.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on August 25, 2008 at 11:35 pm

P.S. I just did a Google search on Sally’s Stage, and the first wiki/answers.com page that came up, had a brief but thorough history of it.
It mentons the Barton theater organ, but didn’t name the Nortown. It did however mention the organist from the Hinsdale Theatre played it at Sallys.

The owner Joe Bortz also owned the two Dr. Jazz Ice Cream stores. One on Montrose & one in Evanston.(Down the street from the Coronet Theatre)

Maybe the CT administrator can put up the link here and/or on the Nortown page.

Jayne1955
Jayne1955 on August 25, 2008 at 4:19 pm

Yes, I was thinking of Sally’s Stage. It had a collection of old carnival game machines, that you could play. I think some came from Riverview Amusement park. But I thought they just took the lift from the Nortown, and the organ came from someplace else. But I may not be remembering correctly. It was a long time ago. There was a similiar place on Montrose near Ashland, but I can’t remember the name of that, either.

I know a couple of local high schools (I think Mather for sure) used the Nortown for graduation ceremonies a couple of times. That was interesting. The Uptown could be used like that.

The Oriental has done well as a playhouse, Wicked especially has done well there, but you still have the parking problem if you try to do that at the Uptown. And Wicked is a good fit for the Oriental since the Oriental was built on the site of the Iroquois, which was the biggest theatre fire disaster I can remember, and the Oriental was supposedly haunted. That comes up every now and then on a slow news day, especially around Halloween.