Uptown Theatre

4816 North Broadway,
Chicago, IL 60640

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DavidZornig on August 25, 2008 at 4:42 am

Wow, thanks Ron. That’s exactly the kind of conversion I was trying to describe. That’s great that it’s already been done within a vintage theatre elsewhere.
Maybe the new owners will hopefully read Cinema Treasures, and contact those involved who budgeted for and made the Paramount in Seattle happen.
I wonder what The Paramount’s parking scenario is.

Also, to Jayne1955, I reread some of the past posts. I seem to remember now that Sally’s Stage near Devon & Western was the restaurant the Nortown Theatre’s organ was taken to. It was directly across the street. And it’s showbiz theme would have been a natural. I think the organ was on the North wall of Sally’s Stage. I was there in the late `70’s. And they had banjo players and all kinds of stuff going on.
Kind of like Ed Debevics or Dick’s Last Resort. Thankfully without the attitude though.

ron1screen on August 25, 2008 at 4:04 am

They may want to try to make the Uptown usable for large conventions like the Paramount in Seattle did. When the Paramount was restored they removed the original auditorium floor and installed a convertable floor that is slopped and has seats for theater use and then can be made flat for convention use. I don’t know how they convert it but have been told that it only takes a few hours to go from slopped floor with seats to a flat empty floor ready for tables or whatever the renter requires. 30 million was spent on the Paramount and it has run in the black every year. They also expanded the stage and do a lot of touring Broadway shows and concerts, as well as films and conventions. They are also a 501 3C. With a lot of imagination the Uptown can be brought back.

DavidZornig on August 25, 2008 at 3:00 am

Greetings. I too would love to see the Uptown restored to it’s original state first. As a theatre for films, stage plays & concerts you could sit at.

I was just speculating on how it would/could be profitable or even able to break even, with just nightly shows again. Other than big name entertainers, what could they do to keep it an active place and paying for itself on a daily basis.

I was trying to throw out generic examples of how to adapt the space so it could be used as often as possible.
Barring running matinee & evening performances of virtually everything, it might take a long time to reach the break even point. Especially if $35 million is spent before ever opening the doors. And that presumably being partially borrowed with it’s own interest, etc.

Some accounting firm will figure that one out. They’d probably start with something like: If it sold out every existing seat with 4300 people paying $100 a ticket, there’s $430,000 on a given night. Somebody please check my math, I failed everything past the 8th grade.

Now say they removed just the first floor seats(grrrr), and squeezed in more bodies for a concert, lets round it out to earning $500,000 per sold out show.
Including or excluding expensive VIP box seats or freebies or whatever, let’s just use the $500K as a super-generous nightly pull-in.
If they pay Sting, Cher or whoever $200,000 of that, or whatever the going rock star rate is, they’re left with $300K, which has to pay everyone else, the utilities, unions, and whatever’s left of that $35 million dollar renovation bill.

Since it’s not realistic that they could consistently have Sting’s or Cher’s on a nightly basis, or not always have sell outs with others, the intake would probably be erratic from show to show. And likely half or less than all of the above. So the down time would be critical.
Plus the United Center would be saying “Hey Cher, we can get you 35,000 more ticket buyers and parking for them.” So all the internal marketing would be new ground for promoters to convince or overpay name entertainers, to play the Uptown instead.
Though some veteran entertainers I would like to think would be willing to play for free or limited pay. Just to get the whole thing off the ground on the right note and for sentimental reasons.

Since regular nightly shows is more of ironically a Broadway thing, stage shows & musicals would be the next likely entertainment to consider on a part time basis. Shows that can maybe profit better after limited or lengthy runs. That’s assuming the seats are left in or removable at will. Pulling “Broadway In Chicago” into the mix might be an advantage.

Who knows? The accountants sure will have there hands full, and hopefully be able to pull it all off with flying colors.

P.S. There used to be a cool restaurant across from the Nortown called Sally’s Stage. It had an a very animated waitstaff on skates or something with a stage show during dinner. Big fun.

Jayne1955 on August 25, 2008 at 12:24 am

Make no mistake, I’d rather see it restored as it was. Make no mistake about that. If you have to divide the place up, as deep as it is, I’d prefer to see them save as much of the auditorium as possible, and block in the balcony space somehow. If it has to be done, I’d rather see the auditorium left as much alone as possible and a second floor space created where the balcony is. I’d love to have it restored as it was, but even I admit that might not be feasible. If I put a false wall at balcony level, I’d try to make it something that could later be removed, if anyone ever got the money to put it back.

When they first divided the Nortown, they just covered stuff up. You could sometimes see old lights that were still burning glowing through the partitions. I often wished it could be restored someday, but alas, it was not to be.

Broan on August 24, 2008 at 9:12 pm

The old Heilig-Meyers/Nelson Brothers at the corner was converted into 22 loft condos, the Annoyance Theater, Marigold Indian Restaurant, and Fat Cat Bar a couple years ago. They’re doing very well. The former storage loft building directly north of the Uptown and the cinder-block stores next to that could probably be incorporated, though. I have to imagine some more land acquisition is going to be needed, be it for stage expansion or more support space.

DavidZornig on August 24, 2008 at 5:58 pm

Theme conventions is a great example of mixed-use. Hypothetically, take something like the Rocky Horror convention, Comic-Con, Sci-Fi or whatever else. Those organizers would likely gladly pay dearly, to host their conventions in such a classic setting. But it wouldn’t have to be limited to the lobby.

Maybe when they restore the auditorium portion, depending on how drastic the pitch of the floor/seats is down to the stage, they could incorporate some type of removable floor sections just inside the auditorium from the lobby.

This would allow larger conventions
that require table space, to span out of the lobby and into the granduer of the auditorium. Then replace the floor sections & rear seats as the entertainment dictates from show to show. I always wondered why the Park West never ventured into this on a smaller scale. With their perfectly flat floor in front of the stage.

Or maybe the vacant furniture store to the North of the Uptown, could be outfitted as convention space. With the main entertainment of any given convention taking place in the theatre.
Then make a super sized Shake, Rattle & Read the anchor tenant, expanding all of his media to the soon to be added diverse foot traffic.

I hope all of the Uptown’s community embraces whatever plans & renovations are proposed. Fully understanding that it could mean upwards of an additional 5000 people to the neighborhood on a more regular basis.
This would be a huge boon to the area economy, and anything is worth the sacrifice to end decades of the Uptown’s non use. After all, it is obviously the area’s largest namesake landmark. And should be a proud achievement once it’s completed.

Jayne1955 on August 24, 2008 at 4:32 am

I’ve often wondered if those big old lobbies wouldn’t lend themselves to these theme conventions that draw so many fans. Can you imagine what it would have been like to have a LotR or Harry Potter convention in that big old castle? Or how trippy some anime fans would get with that big old barn to roam around in?

I remember working the concession stand for some of the concerts, and seeing all the people who were out of it just walking around going, “Wow, Man!” like Tommy Chong dong his 70’s show character.

You’ve got so much space in that place!

DavidZornig on August 23, 2008 at 1:13 am

Thanks to you all. My querys on the Alameda/Biltmore, Palacio/Sheridan & Sunset Drive In were all answered in record time. And thanks to BWChicago, I now fully understand the advanced search fields. It was clearly me, and not my archaic WebTV.

As long as I’m here, I’ll post my little tidbits of the Uptown. It was here I’m sure I saw ELO for the first time. Had to be 1973 or `74 because they’d opened for someone else. Possibly Zappa, and not yet themselves headliners. Though I’d think I would remember the latter.
The Uptown was an inspirational place, especially for the progressive rock folks. It gave “Roll Over Beethoven” a surreal quality in such opulant surroundings.

There was a multi-story, possibly city run, customer pay parking structure, just East of the “L” tracks behind the Firestone dealer. It entered & exited onto Broadway using long concrete ramps. This would have been a great asset now with JAM’s involvement, if it had not been torn down years ago. Maybe it could be rebuilt if still vacant. The parking of the various show’s semis, is an excellent point.
And really should be the first thing JAM looks at as far as what they can do on the same nights at both the Riv & Uptown. Never take a community for granted. And trucks belching smoke out 24/7, and the rolling of Anvil cases will get old quick. Even the Riv has used both sides of Lawrence in the past. The side street behind the Uptown would likely need to be reconfigured somehow. Part of the backstage converted to loading dock or something, a previous post suggested.
Maybe the vacant furniture store portion to the North, could be hollowed out as stage access. I worked at Fanning Cadillac at Foster & Broadway. The trucks that delivered our new cars came right down Broadway.

The price JAM & their partners reportedly paid seems like a both a bargain and a blessing.
Since JAM is an established Chicago entertainment company willing to take it on, maybe great things are ahead. The Riviera’s existing interior cosmetics are of slight concern, if that’s some kind of base line. But maybe there’s a bigger plan down the road.
Of course none of these places started out weathered, they just ended up that way. We were warned of the evils of Rock & Roll.
Surely any future work done at the Uptown would be gone over with a magnifying glass. I’m not implying that anyone would cut a corner. Just that it probably wouldn’t be possible.
And in theory, when it starts out looking nice again, like the Chicago Theatre, it will stay that way.

From a business point of view, owning such a massive piece of land 4-5 blocks from the lake and near transportation, is never a wrong move.
Saving as much of the original Uptown both as asthetically & as is fiscally possible, given asbestos and everything else they’ll encounter will be a monumental task.
The biggest culprits will likely be the roof, and years of limited or no heat during those many winters. It’s a given all plumbing & electrical will need replacing, even if you were to restore to it’s original use.
They’ll be heros no matter waht they try, after 27 years of dormancy.

Any conversion though that could possibly end up paying for itself over time, would likely have to include creating a multi-use venue with year round usability. Sadly that would likely mean somehow dividing the auditorium and it’s once touted “acre of seats”.
The massive span of the interior space can’t be financially profitable to do only nightly shows for one audience anymore. It why places like the Uptown closed in the first place.

It would likely take round the clock, United Center level performers like Elton John every day, to merely break even.
And that’s after all the renovation costs. More would have to be going on in a mixed use building on a daily basis just to pay the utilities in any economy.

Since JAM has been doing it so long, and knows the numbers their neighboring venues can pull in, they were probably the only realistic hope the Uptown had left. Barring a Trump like guy who just wants to see it happen. No group can stave off the city forever. And JAM at least has a working relationship with them.
And since it would be closer to no longer being an eyesore, or complained about to the city, they’d be receptive and workable on anything positive happening as we are.

One can only hope it can all be done realistically, tastefully and incorporate the rich Uptown area history. Green Mill, Uptown Bank building, etc.

Maybe they’ll be open to or solicit suggestions once there’s an outline of what’s realistic or not.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on August 22, 2008 at 7:30 pm

Think the drive-in you speak of was the Sunset.

The Alameda is probably listed as the Biltmore.

charles1954 on August 22, 2008 at 7:02 pm

Hi David,
The theatre on Sheridan Road, north of Irving Park Road is/was called the SHERIDAN and you’ll find lots of information about the cinema under that name at Cinema Treasures. The X-rated theatre south of Irving Park Road was my personal childhood favourite during the early 60’s, when it was still called by its original name – MODÈ. If you are interested in that one too, you’ll find plenty of information on it! If the Cinema Treasure site didn’t exist, one would have to invent it! Thanks very much to whoever is responsible for creating it!!!!

DavidZornig on August 22, 2008 at 5:32 pm

Greetings. I’m posting this inquiry on the Uptown page, because it seems to have a large numer of posters familiar with various theatres on the North Side of Chicago.

Does anyone remember any of the following three theatres, and their original names or exact addresses?

I’ve searched Cinema Treasures but have been unable to locate the pages because I’m unsure of the names. The locations I am sure of though.

1)Palacio Theatre?.
This place was located on Sheridan Road just North of Irving Park Road, on the West side of Sheridan. Where Cuyler or something dead ends into Sheridan.
North of the Holiday Club.

It was long closed and torn down in the late 70’s, or early `80’s. It was much bigger than the old X-Rated Festival Theatre that was South of Irving on Sheridan as well.

The Palacio had a huge auditorium whose rear was visible from the “L” trains after it made the Northbound turn from the Sheridan stop. I may be wrong about the name.

2)The Alameda?
This theatre was on Division a half block West of Damen on the North side of Division. It had a gigantic marquee that spanned the entire facade and overhung all the way to the curb. It was torn down in the early `90’s. The marquee had to have temporary poles to hold it up before it was razed. There is an open courtyard mini-mall with condos above I believe in it’s place now.

3)Lincolnwood Drive-In?
This place was on McCormick Blvd. between Howard & Devon near Touhy. Either North or South of Klein Tools.
It may be where Lincolnwood Towne Mall is now, where Bell & Howell used to be or something.

It may have also used a Chicago address. It was still open in the late `70’s, as I drove to & saw “The Enforcer” there. Clint got everyone amped up. Lot’s of gravel flying when everyone left.

These three theatres may already be listed on Cinema Treasures, I just don’t know the correct way to search them. Thanks!

davidreed on August 14, 2008 at 5:39 pm

I just wanted to share how proud of you Fellow “Theater nuts,” in Chi-town I'am. I’ve been watching your site for the Uptown with a lot of interest over the years and it seems as if a new chapter in this great theater’s life is about to be written. The passion you’ve all shown helped keep the Uptown’s fate in question allowing for time and reflection.I hope the new owners will allow your input and be able to channel the love you all have for it into something as great as the Great Theater its self.I look forward to the day I come to visit your city and the Palace that is the UPTOWN!!

Jayne1955 on August 14, 2008 at 4:50 pm

I would hope that they would consider that. CATOE might be able to help with that. (The Chicago Theatre Organ Enthusiasts) There was an organ taken out of a theatre and put into a restaurant near the Nortown that is now closed. I wonder what became of that one? They took the lift out of the Nortown to make it work. I was at the Nortown when they did it.

Sigh. The problem with the destruction of theatres is that neither love nor logic seem to help very much, and love and/or logic are powerful driving emotions. I think that’s why it makes people so virulent.

deleted user
[Deleted] on August 14, 2008 at 3:30 pm

Does anyone know if JAM would be open to the idea of having an organ put back into the Uptown? It seems that the Uptown would almost be incomplete without one.

TeamUptown on August 12, 2008 at 3:17 pm

I think it’s safe to say everyone on this site would like the best possible outcome for the Uptown. And I completly understand your curiosity in knowing every detail of the renovation process.
I will do my best to get everyone all the inside Information as soon as it become’s available. Please understand that there are item's
that cant be disclosed until event’s warrent. As far as the many
wonderful story’s I have of growing up in this great venue, they are
being compiled along with those of other big player’s in the theaters great history for an upcoming book. The title of the book is still up in the air,( The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway And Larwence?)Just kidding, however look for it to be realesed soon.
I have gathered backstage pass’s drum stick’s, set list’s, ect,
I gathered some great concert pictures, from friend’s and family.
Everyone from Alice Cooper, to Zappa, Played the Uptown. So there will be somthing for everyone music wise.

uptownjen on August 6, 2008 at 11:15 pm

there’s a new, full-page editorial in the chicago reader this week concerning the sale of the uptown. it’s not up on the website just yet, but it is in the print edition which came out today. it discusses the reasons why the city should be happy that JAM purchased the theatre.

i’m sure their website will have the same article in the next day or so.

just wanted to keep everyone in the know about what’s being discussed in chicago about the theatre…

uptownjen on August 5, 2008 at 6:12 pm

wow, rene! what cool stories you must have of your times at the uptown. just reading the summaries of those experiences makes me excited! (this doesn’t even count how cool i think it is that you must know about every nook in the uptown!)

Jayne1955 on August 4, 2008 at 10:14 pm

Were Renee the guy who yelled at me when the line backed up so far when I was behind the concession counter at the Bay City Rollers concert? God, the munchies those people had!

But I agree…there is much to be learned from past restoration experiences. We need to just sit tight a little bit longer, and see what kind of ride we’re going to be taken on, good or bad, exciting, or disappointing.

uptownadviser on August 4, 2008 at 7:54 pm

That wasn’t directed at you, Rene. Just everyone else who didn’t eat pizza with the Boss.

TeamUptown on August 4, 2008 at 6:29 pm

I hardly qualify as a armchair quaterback.
I dont think I am going out on a limb here when I say
that, I know this project like the back of my hand.
I have been to every concert, boxing match, movie,
at the Uptown from 1977-1981. I ate pizza with Bruce Springsteen
and company. shared popcorn with Peter Gabriel there, and cooked three turkey’s for Carlos Santana when he played there on thanksgiving day,

Ross Melnick
Ross Melnick on August 4, 2008 at 5:48 pm

Please keep your comments focused on the subject at hand.

I want to also warn those of you who make unsubstantiated accusations about an organization that you are subject to our comments policy (which will be strictly enforced). Please remember as well that the relative anonymity of the Internet does not protect you from issues of libel.

As we note in our comments policy: “Unless you have court-documented proof of malice, bankruptcy, theft, vandalism, misappropriation of funds, drug use, violence, etc., do not submit any such accusations on this site. This site is not a venue for your private or public grievances against other people. If you wish to make such accusations, do it somewhere else. If you libel another user here, your account will be deleted.”

This will be enfored.

uptownadviser on August 4, 2008 at 5:25 pm

I guess I would simply ask that all of us armchair observers wait until there are some facts or there is a project proposal before getting into any flavor of lather. At this moment, nothing has changed. Everyone’s hopes, dreams and fears are simply on hold, awaiting further action and announcement. I cannot speak for any of the would-be owner/operators. However, I can speak for the volunteers who have a lot of experience and have studied and visited theatre restoration projects worldwide — good, bad and ugly. Yes, there is much to be learned from the past 30 years of theatre renovation and resue as we know it. No, conjecture, blame, accusations, threats of imprisonment and other nonsense are not helpful at this time. If this garbage continues on this page for the UPTOWN, I will ask that it be removed. Thanks.

Jayne1955 on August 4, 2008 at 3:40 pm

I do not recommend libeling anyone on this or any other site. I think we can hold onto the thread by not responding inapropriately to inappropriate comments. Just let the trolls go back under the bridge. They don’t have to have any power here.

But to tackle another part of what’s come up…I really don’t think using other situations for a comparison as to how things will proceed with the Uptown is THAT far off topic. The whole point is to learn from the past. I’d rather have the Uptown restoration go more slowly and be done right than rushed and be done haphazardly.

If we’re looking at Chicago as a reference point, they certainly rushed to get the Iroquois open on time for the Christmas season, and it was open a month before it caught fire, killing hundreds of people. This has to been done as slowly as it needs to be, to be done safely and well.

uptownadviser on August 4, 2008 at 1:21 pm

This discussion has strayed so far from the Uptown, Chicago and any facts available at this time that I really wish it would cease.

Broan on August 4, 2008 at 6:53 am

My point was that historically theaters, as well as any complex building projects, are very, very frequently off-schedule. A lot of times now you’ll see theaters rushed to completion because they absolutely HAVE to open due to scheduling. But still things are pushed back very frequently. I know the last two big theater projects in Chicago, the Biograph and Bank of America (Lasalle Bank, Shubert, Majestic) Theater were both reopened significantly later than originally projected.

I would also point out that it is very normal for a theater to be closed long before restoration; for example, the Oriental was closed for 18 years and the Auditorium for nearly 30. The Genesee in Waukegan was closed for 15 years. I could go on. Continuous operation up to restoration is definitely the exception, not the rule.