Nortown Theater

6320 N. Western Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60659

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Showing 76 - 100 of 233 comments

Lostnyc on September 2, 2007 at 1:13 am

Re Salvage

I am glad to see saved what could be be saved, I have one of the plaster deco’s from the interior, nothing special about it and its somewhat crumbly, but I like it.
I like the 30"x20" alternating Art Deco facade panels, as a sculptor who specializes in re-creating Victorian and Art Deco elements, I decided to sculpt at least one model of the 3 different Art Deco panels if not all 3, but in a smaller more apartment/home friendly size, I’ll start on a clay model soon as I decide on the size to make it. These are simple designs but attractive, these designs will continue to live on.

Randall’s Lost New York City.
Sculpture studio and web gallery of historic lost NYC buildings and ornaments.

Chgojim on August 31, 2007 at 9:25 am

Batwoman, what is your Brother’s Name? if you would like you can respond to my email address to remain private, I think I might have an idea.

Batwoman on August 29, 2007 at 4:28 pm

88 and 91 myself

my sister… 76 and 80, my older brother 80 and 84….

Chgojim on August 29, 2007 at 9:20 am

Class of 79 and 83 respectively

Batwoman on August 28, 2007 at 7:23 pm

Stone and Senn. Yeah we went there.

Chgojim on August 28, 2007 at 1:14 pm

Just a couple of thoughts about the demise of the Nortown. I too was raised in the neighborhood directly across from the Nortown, (Oakley) and lived there from 1974-1991 until I moved to NYC, although my parents lived in the neighborhood until last year. I think a few of the posters here tend to look at the demise of the theatre as maybe a little bit a destruction of a bygone era, possibly their youth.

But you have to face the facts the neighborhood changed, the times changed, the medium of how we experience films have changed. Direct TV, Video, Video on-demand, etc. has effected how we watch film. The Nortown was probably losing money for the owner the last 5 or so years it was opened, even with the split in a multiplex. The demographics of the neighborhood was also changing and as neighborhood ages less people go to the movies (I think my parents last film at the Nortown was “Comes a Horseman”). The neighborhood could not simply support a facility that large. Also, you have remember when it was built there was a limited amount of avenues to spend your free time, (what is Television?) and about 80% of the population would go to the movies.

With that said it is a real shame that year after year, one by one these great structures are being demo’d to make room for more cookie cutting condos. But before I go here are my favorite memories of the Nortown.

  1. Midnight Movies â€" I don’t remember how many times I saw “A Song Remains the Same”.

  2. Star Wars opens in the spring 1977, for any pre-teen a high water mark growing up. However, by late summer, I was praying that they would change the Movie!!!, remember only one screen.

  3. “The Greek Tycoon” not much of a film but I saw my first movie Boobie!

  4. Seeing Blazing Saddles with Jonathan Blintstein, didn’t “get” half the jokes but that campfire scene, whoa!

  5. Finally, remembering all the times and faces of my friends who went to Stone and St. Henry’s, Mather and Senn, etc.

Batwoman on August 27, 2007 at 10:57 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 on August 14, 2007 at 3:14 pm

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 on August 14, 2007 at 1:37 pm

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 on August 13, 2007 at 12:40 pm


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 on August 10, 2007 at 11:35 am

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

Nortown on August 10, 2007 at 11:33 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 on August 9, 2007 at 8:01 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 on August 9, 2007 at 7:33 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 6:55 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 on August 9, 2007 at 5:28 pm

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 on August 8, 2007 at 9:47 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 on August 8, 2007 at 12:39 pm

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 on August 7, 2007 at 11:31 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 on August 5, 2007 at 11:54 pm

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

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

Batwoman on August 5, 2007 at 10:41 am

Everything about this is heart breaking.

dyban on August 5, 2007 at 2:27 am

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

CHICTH74 on August 5, 2007 at 12:35 am

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 on August 4, 2007 at 10:51 pm

Found this:

View link

I can’t believe it’s gone..

Batwoman on August 4, 2007 at 10:44 pm

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