Ford Center for the Performing Arts Oriental Theatre

24 West Randolph Street,
Chicago, IL 60601

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Showing 101 - 125 of 180 comments

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on January 16, 2007 at 6:18 pm

As I recall, the balcony of the Oriental isn’t too steep. I think you should feel safe. The only problem I can see would come into play if your seats are right up on the railing. It will be obvious at that point that you are about 1 ½ stories from the main floor.

CHICTH74 on January 16, 2007 at 6:06 pm

TO reginamon :
If you would like to see the Orential Balc pic you can try the broadway in chicago site that is the offical site for the Orential if you look at the top of the profile you will see a link for it onder related websites. If that cant halp you when you get to the theatre before you go to your ticked seat ask to speak to the HOUSE MGR. you might be able to get a relocation pass for your self but not the whole group. But as i sayed before before you go to the balc ask to speak to the HOUSE MGR. and see what he/she can do .
Have a great time and enjoy the show. :)

reginamom on January 16, 2007 at 6:41 am

My Girl Scout troop will be attending the play Wicked soon at the Oriental Theatre and of course we have balcony seats, because cookie money doesn’t go very far! I am deathly afraid of heights and I was wondering if anyone can tell me where I can find pictures of the interior of the theatre so that I can mentally prepare for how high up the seats are before we go.
Troop leader

DimitriusStrong on December 17, 2006 at 11:24 pm

Awesome, invaluable info. Thanks very much BW.

Broan on December 17, 2006 at 8:30 pm

The United Artists was at the SE corner of Randolph and Dearborn, The Woods was at the NW Corner, with the Cinestage and Michael Todd on Dearborn next to it. Next to the Woods on Randolph was the Garrick, which was long gone by the 80s, as was the Apollo a little north of it. Another block down was the Palace, which also did live shows as the Bismarck. Also next to the Chicago in the Walgreens building was the small Loop theater, and across from Field’s was the Roosevelt. These were the major theaters of the “Randolph Street Rialto”.

Thanks for all your recollections!

DimitriusStrong on December 17, 2006 at 7:56 pm

Werent there several other theaters up and down the same street The Oriental was located? I was very young then to remember what they were named, but I do remember several more up and down the same block. Anyone who can name them for me, it would be greatly appreciated to further my research of these amazing theatrical palaces.

Broan on November 28, 2006 at 10:30 am

Here is a 1960s shot of the Oriental reflected in a restaurant across the street.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on November 20, 2006 at 1:03 pm

Wish I could have seen it in person.

Broan on November 20, 2006 at 9:55 am

1927 views of the Oriental Marquee can be seen by searching for 26128 or 26129.

Broan on November 17, 2006 at 9:21 am

Here is the marquee in its ‘Wicked’ glory.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on November 1, 2006 at 1:23 pm

Amazing photo. I remember taking a bus from that Trailways depot when I was a really little kid.

Broan on November 1, 2006 at 12:14 pm

Here is a postcard view of the Oriental.

CHICTH74 on October 5, 2006 at 5:27 pm

As i have written in the other post in the Chicago Mag October edition.
on page 116 their is a very nice pic of the Orential sign and marquee
i think it is from the 401s judgeing from the car in the pic.

Broan on August 20, 2006 at 10:57 am

Here is a 1950s view of the glitzy Randolph Street Rialto.

Broan on August 20, 2006 at 10:30 am

Here is an early postcard view of the New United Masonic Temple Building/Oriental Theater

CHICTH74 on August 3, 2006 at 8:58 am

Thank You for the HAARGIS photo i forgot how the Orential looked back then. Thank You for your time :)

Broan on August 3, 2006 at 6:30 am

Here is an early 1990s HAARGIS photo of the unrestored Oriental from across Block 37.

JimRankin on June 19, 2006 at 6:16 pm

The “open bulb” type of sign that Brian refers to is called a SKELETON sign, and was quite popular for its big impact and lower cost. Incandescent versions were most common, but neon versions also existed, especially in the less storm and ice prone areas.

As to why it seemed so redundant in multiple wordings, remember the tenor of times: the Second world War was over and the country was newly flush with money, materials for bigger signs, and the guys back from the war to make and install these things. Sign companies saw it as a bonanza for them as they would usually give a prominent palace a sweet dealm to ‘upgrade’ its signage so that their salesmen could flash new color photos of the newness to owners/operators of other theatres and claim the palace had increased its gate by some mythical percentage as a result of the new, larger, brighter signs attracting the eye of the passerby.

One must also remember that automobile ownership ballooned after the war and so passerbys were now often speeding by, so it took a bigger spectacle to assure they would see an exhibitor’s sign amid the clutter of many other new, larger signs of all businesses. This competition for always bigger and brighter got so extreme that social standards groups started campaigns to return to “sane” non-garish signage, and politicians who sensed the change in the wind of public acceptance, lost no time in enacting leglislation to limit the size and character of signs, and it was the theatre Vertical that was the most conspicuous and therefore often the first to go.

By the end of the Sixties, the country’s moral climate changed from the moral and conservative of the war years, to the permissive and amoral. Sign restrictions were seen as part of the old Blue Laws and were repealed — or simply unenforced — across the land. The psychedelic era arrived along with strobe lights, so bright lights were hip again and who would restrain trade? Some places will now accept Verticals, some won’t in the typical patchwork quilt of laws in this country. Read back issues of “Signs Of The Times” magazine for articles.

CHICTH74 on June 19, 2006 at 5:30 pm

Thank You for that information :)

Also i will have to agree with you on the current marquee, i will have to look at the vertical sign closer next time i am by the Orential Thanks for you time.

Broan on June 19, 2006 at 1:28 pm

One thing i’ve never quite understood is why the Oriental’s marquee was replaced with a virtually identical model in the 50s. For reference, Here is the original marquee, and Here is the replacement. As visible in the 1932 picture, the ugly open-bulb sign over the window had been added quite early and there was a great redundancy with the same information on the vertical sign, attraction sign, and marquee. I think the current marquee captures the essence of the original pretty well. It also looks to me like the vertical sign is positioned a bit differently from the original.

JimRankin on June 19, 2006 at 12:39 pm

The sign that you inquire about, is properly called the VERTICAL SIGN (the MARQUEE below it consists of a Canopy surrounded by some sort of Attraction Boards with the changeable letters for the current attraction, with the theatre’s Name Sign and often ornaments atop it). The Vertical Signs were often the first to go for a variety of reasons:
1) Change of name of theatre or ownership
2) Damage to expensive sign as by lightning
3) Changes to building necessitating removal
4) The “modernization” programs in many cities, especially in the 1950s when owners were persuaded by firms offering such as sheet alluminum and plexiglas that a theatre must look new and ‘with it’ to compete with new cinemas then being built.
5) Maintenance costs that involved often replacing hundreds of light bulbs, scraping rust and repainting by specialists well paid for hanging in a bosun’s seat at that height!
9) Feared physical damage as during the Second World War when the nation was in a mass fear over possible bombings and consequent falling signs, along with that perennial fear in earthquake-prone areas — and the resultant repair expenses and liability litigation.
10) The restrictions upon repair materials during the War years, and the elimination of certain neon colors in the 50s which made authentic repairs impossible in some cases.
11) The progressive change of politics which encouraged demolition of such signs by taxing them.

The Theatre Historical Society has many photos of the removal of the Vertical Signs but it is often difficult to know the actual combination of reasons in any one case. In many cities it is now illegal to re-construct such Vertical Signs, so exciting though they were, there is little hope of returning them in most cases.

CHICTH74 on June 19, 2006 at 8:55 am

Can any one tell me why the sign that runs up the side of the bulding was removed? Was this becuse of WW2 or becuse it was falling apart?
Also can any one tell me when it was removed?
If you click on the link posted above then go down to the bottom you will see pitctures from 1920? and others from 1970? showing the diferance. thank you for you time . and thank you fore the link to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency`s HAARGIS System.:)

Broan on June 17, 2006 at 3:07 pm

Here is a profile from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency’s HAARGIS system. It includes small pictures. Here is another.