Nortown Theater

6320 N. Western Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60659

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Showing 76 - 100 of 227 comments

Batwoman
Batwoman on August 27, 2007 at 4:57 pm

thanks for the pictures. I must be a sadist because I keep wanting to see pictures of demo since I couldn’t get down there for it, yet it’s so heartbreaking to see her go like that.

Batwoman
Batwoman on August 14, 2007 at 9:14 am

Antioch isn’t a palace but an old movie house, still 1 screen, little place kind of like the old Skokie theater. Complete with balcony. Best part of all this is they are a first run theater with prices you haven’t seen since the 70s, if not 60s.

mp775
mp775 on August 14, 2007 at 7:37 am

And if you don’t mind a drive of a couple hours, there’s the Oriental in Milwaukee, which I think is the only regularly-operating movie theater in the area that has a balcony.

CatherineDiMartino
CatherineDiMartino on August 13, 2007 at 6:40 am

Nortown—

Oh, but there are “palaces” that you could take your children to. That is, if you are willing to do it on a somewhat smaller scale. You could take them to the Tivoli in Downers Grove. If you don’t want to drive all that way, there’s a Metra station across the street (what a great idea for the kids—combining an afternoon at a wonderful old theatre and a train ride).

There’s also the Music Box and the Portage. The Pickwick is also a possibility (just make sure that the movie you want is in the main theatre and not in the shoeboxes).

Granted, these places are smaller than the true palaces were, but at least your children could get an idea of what the palaces were like.

Nortown
Nortown on August 10, 2007 at 5:35 am

By the way, whomever moderates this web site may want to change the Nortown’s status from “closed/demolished” to “demolished”.

Nortown
Nortown on August 10, 2007 at 5:33 am

Jerry, I was working at the Nortown when you saw Star Wars. Per the messages above, it was possible to actually sell out the Nortown, including the balcony. We did it when we had Star Wars. However, it was infrequent after Star Wars that we ever had to open up the balcony again. I recall that we did do pretty good business when we had the movies “Beverly Hills Cop” and “The Muppet Movie”. There were other movies as well that we were kept hopping, especially on Friday nights and weekends. But the majority of the time the theater was not packed. Certainly, as I commented in an earlier message above, there were some weeknights where only thirty people would show up. And, since there have been big changes in the neighborhood from the late ‘70s and early '80s, I doubt that a movie like “Beverly Hills Cop” would pull in the same amount of patrons. Still, I think that it is extremely sad that my children will never know the wonderment of a movie “palace”. I recall that many patrons that were making their first visit to the Nortown would look up in amazement at the mural ceilings in the lobby and then step into the auditorium and stare at the twinkling lights in the ceiling and the nautical themes along the walls.

jvasilatos
jvasilatos on August 9, 2007 at 2:01 pm

I posted a tribute to the Nortown on my Myspace blog in June, I had no idea it would take them this long to pull it down…

View link

Batwoman
Batwoman on August 9, 2007 at 1:33 pm

Don’t forget, you have worse parking with the multi plexes, the more screns, the worse the parking is. There’s a 20 screen about a mile from my house and the parking lot is packed. If you’re lucky you can get a close spot. If not then you are parking the equivilent of about half a block away and walking there. Even though it’s in the same lot as a strip mall with a kmart, few restaurants and hollywood video.

I like the big places like that sure, but we need to preserve the older places and go out of our way to see movies there. That’s why I either go to Fox Lake (even though they expanded it in recent years) or Antioch. I actually go out of my way to go to the one I live behind (the above mentiond theater).

Also the trend in theaters now is to go back in time and make a movie palace, although that’s not what their calling it. It’s now being dubbed as theme or something like that.

you can’t tell me an old palace like Nortown wouldn’t make it if it were kept up.

Too, for the above poster, that neighborhood has changed so much in the past 30+ years. I remember what it was like in the 70s and 80s… night and day difference compared to what it is today.

If I ever have the money, I will seriously rebuild the Nortown some place in Lake County.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on August 9, 2007 at 12:55 pm

Yeah, you gotta understand that places like the Nortown were built in an entirely different business climate. Back then the thing was to drop a lavish theatre in the middle of a working class neighborhood. People were attracted to these fine buildings because they provided an avenue for the average guy to feel like royalty, and be entertained for a few cents. Air conditioning was also a pretty big deal. Fewer people had personal entertainment devices in their homes. Fewer people had cars, so many would walk. Others might travel a short distance on the steet car. The whole neighborhood would converge to see a show. Starbucks has used a similar strategy over the last fifteen years by dropping upper class coffee houses with exotic products in working class neighborhoods around Chicago, after initially only opening them in elite suburbs.

Imagine leaving your average Chicago apartment in the heat of summer and walking down the street toward the shimmering marquee of your air-conditioned neighborhood movie palace? It must have been pretty cool.

At this stage of the game most people can afford a window air conditioner, everyone has a TV, and the tendency is to try and feel like a big shot by buying a giant TV with surround sound. People like to go out to see new releases. But they don’t want to waste time with buses and street parking. They want to drive to the local AMC, pull into the lot and see the show. I love old theatres and even I feel that way.

I am really sorry to see the Nortown go, and I think they could have saved a section of it. But the idea of reusing this property for entertainment purposes definitely posed a lot of challenges.

mp775
mp775 on August 9, 2007 at 11:28 am

Sure, but eventually, it didn’t serve enough neighborhood folks to continue operating.

The buses wouldn’t help much, either. Let’s say 2,000 people came to an event on a Saturday evening. Half of them paired up in cars – that’s 500 cars, which would be difficult but possible to accommodate between the Mutual Bank parking lot and on-street parking around the neighborhood. The other 1,000 people have their choice of four buses that run every twenty minutes. Assuming everyone goes in each direction equally, it would take over an hour before everyone gets on a bus.

Of course, there is no shortage of cabs in the neighborhood (even though they usually have their “Off Duty” lights on today), but having that many people hail cabs at the same time comes with its own set of problems.

Batwoman
Batwoman on August 8, 2007 at 3:47 pm

Parking is a nightmare there, but until it closed, it served the neighborhood folks since opening. People walked there and they can take the bus there. So realistically, the parking around there is suitable for those that choose to drive.

Granted, I lived across the street, so I’d just walk through the alley, cut through the parking lot and then cross Western and I was there. Took me a couple minutes to walk it.

mp775
mp775 on August 8, 2007 at 6:39 am

This is the first I’ve heard of the “structurally unsound” label. I do know that Patel initially did want to save the theater, but the cost of mechanical upgrades was prohibitive. The interior, except for the downstairs auditorium, was consmetically in good condition a year ago, though much of the ornamentation had already been removed years before.

Not only is it easier to fill a smaller venue like the Tivoli or Portage, but you need a place for them to put their cars, too. A 2,000 seat neighborhood house is an anachronism; if a theater is large, it has to be a regional destination. The Tivoli has on-site parking, and the Portage has a municipal lot half a block away. The Nortown is in the middle of arguably the worst parking mess in the City outside of Downtown. Two small screens serving the local populace will work a lot better there.

CatherineDiMartino
CatherineDiMartino on August 7, 2007 at 5:31 am

I’ve had mixed feelings about the demolition of the Nortown. This may be because I’ve never attended movies here. A famous archeitect once said (and I’m paraphrasing here) “We will be judged not by the works we created, but by those we destroyed.” (If any fellow CTers know which archeitect this was, please let me know.

But on the other hand, could the Nortown realistically have been saved? The building, from what I understand, was in very bad shape. Assuming that it could have somehow been saved, what could be booked? Could the place have been filled enough times so that it could make a profit or at least cover expenses? The competition out there is just too great!

Could the theatre have been used again for film? It seems to me that the place would have been just too big for that. As one person said above “30 people would show up to sit in a 2,000 seat theatre.” It might seem heresy to say this, but it’s best chance might have been to restore the lobby and do what they did to the Esquire (only on a much more classier level—ie maybe 4 screens and definitely NOT shoeboxes, but with some atmosphere to them). Certainly the present owner realized that he could not fill the old Nortown showing Bollywood and Pakistani movies. I do, however, agree that this city does not need more condos.

The point is that, as much as we love old theatres, we must be pragmatic. Not everything can be saved. I should say that I love places like the Tivoli and the Portage, however those are much smaller venues and therefore easier to book. I also think that the Esquire and the DuPage could have been saved too. But as far as preservation is concerned, one must choose one’s battles carefully. But to those who attended and loved the old Nortown, you can take solace in your good memories of the place. Remember it as it once was and also take solace in that, thanks to Urban Remains, parts of the theatre can and will live on, possibly to be re-used in cinemas such as the Lake.

CHICTH74
CHICTH74 on August 5, 2007 at 5:54 pm

Just like the song says “ Pave paradise, put up a parking lot”

Hartbreaking and very sad 1st the Esqurie and now this :(

Batwoman
Batwoman on August 5, 2007 at 4:41 am

Everything about this is heart breaking.

dyban
dyban on August 4, 2007 at 8:27 pm

The photo in the Sun-Times article above is really heartbreaking.

CHICTH74
CHICTH74 on August 4, 2007 at 6:35 pm

Batwoman :
I saw it on WGN CH 9 it was a short peace but it might be on the web . It was on the 9pm broadcast on saturday Aug 4th 2007.

Batwoman
Batwoman on August 4, 2007 at 4:51 pm

Found this:

View link

I can’t believe it’s gone..

Batwoman
Batwoman on August 4, 2007 at 4:44 pm

what channel did you see that on? I wonder if they’ll hae that info on the web?

CHICTH74
CHICTH74 on August 4, 2007 at 4:34 pm

Just saw on the news that NORTOWN is being torn down an in it place will go what else CONDOS . And from what i have herd romm for 2 smaller theatres .

It is a sad day when great places like this are replaced with CONDOS and all that is left is a foot note to history.

SO SAD :( Thank you for your time .

Broan
Broan on August 3, 2007 at 11:51 am

The facade is currently about half down.

missmelbatoast
missmelbatoast on July 16, 2007 at 10:19 am

Thank you, BWC! How careless of me, of course it was the NORSHORE I was refering to.
http://www.photoeye.com

Broan
Broan on July 16, 2007 at 9:58 am

Perhaps you mean the Norshore, /theaters/964/

Broan
Broan on July 16, 2007 at 9:57 am

JEO Pridmore was the architect for the Nortown. What is your source?

missmelbatoast
missmelbatoast on July 16, 2007 at 9:54 am

Rapp & Rapp designed the (1931) Nortown Theatre mezzanine floor with the same milti color “basket weave” marble design as they had put inside the (1922) Akdar Theatre lobby in Tulsa, OK.