Portage Theatre

4050 N. Milwaukee Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60641

Unfavorite 36 people favorited this theater

Showing 126 - 150 of 202 comments

tonyc86 on May 21, 2006 at 5:52 pm

Since it looks like the people who had responsibility for opening up the Portage reads these posts, I just wanted to say thank you for my wonderful weekend!! I saw a Charlie Chaplin film on the 19th and another today on the 21st. Thank you so much for reopening this theater. I used to come here in the 80s and since I don’t live that far away, I plan on coming a lot more to support you.

I never saw a silent film on the big screen before, nor have I ever saw one with a live organ player. Thank you for sharing that experience with me!!

I just wanted to tell you that it was so nice to share a small piece of my childhood with my wife. Thank you so much for that!! Although I’m not a big silent film buff, I would be more than happy to join your organization if it will help keep the Portage going. You did a great job!!! Thank you so much again!! I hope there will be more people on the NW side supporting you as well!!

Best Regards,

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on May 21, 2006 at 4:14 pm

Boy is that ever an improvement!

mp775 on May 21, 2006 at 2:56 pm

Here are some photos of the inside & outside of the Portage, taken today:

View link

jwarren on May 9, 2006 at 1:54 pm

The Portage opens May 19th. Check out silentfilmchicago.com

terracottapie on May 9, 2006 at 12:09 pm

Devotees of the Portage:
I haven’t heard much about when the Portage is set to start showing films again regularly or putting on shows, but I have hear that there will be some kind of a screening there on June 8th with some documentaries pertaining to Uptown and its own dormant theater. Should be a gas! The Portage Lives!

Broan on April 26, 2006 at 8:11 am

Yes and yes. Although I was never inside the theater before, I was shown pictures of it and it appeared in very poor shape indeed. It’s been repainted inside and is very quaint and cozy. Although it doesn’t really qualify as a restoration, it is done very tastefully and resembles the original decor to a large extent. Really the only major differences from pictures dating to the original is paint, and the old organ false balconies were removed when ‘scope came in, and boxes on the rear walls were enclosed not long after opening. Any drapery on the sidewalls is gone. They’ve done a ton of work and a great job, I think you’ll be very pleasantly surprised to see what it looks like now. Dennis used to manage the Gateway and yes, it was the same festival that was held there, although they should be happening more frequently now that they have a permanent home. SFC also continues to do screenings at other theaters like the Arcada and Pickwick.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on April 26, 2006 at 7:20 am

Brian: two questions…

1) Have you seen the inside of the theatre? What condition is it in? I have heard that they removed the dividing wall between cinema I & II. But the last time I saw the theatre in ‘89 it was painted black and covered with typical M&R drapes. Have they done any work to make the auditorium look better?

2) Is this the same silent film festival that was held at the Gateway in the mid-90’s?

Broan on April 26, 2006 at 6:46 am

The Portage is set to reopen Friday, May 19 with Silent Film Chicago’s Spring Silent Film Festival. Tickets are now on sale. http://www.silentfilmchicago.com/

dakotaben on March 31, 2006 at 12:28 am

I hope that they reopen it, and soon. I am a native of Jefferson Park (next to Portage Park) and when I was by there last week I saw that the front doors (glass) were all uncovered and I could see inside all the way back to the concesssion stand. The inside looked very clean and clearly someone was getting it ready for something. I can say that the concession stand was very small. I vagely remember that theatre when I was a kid back in the 80’s. I saw some kind of cartoon there or something like that. I would love to hear when the theatre will open up again. I am currently out of Chicago, out of state acutally running a 15 screen theatre. When I come back to Chicago again next month to visit all, I would love to see the inside of that place.

That and the Patio.


rroberts on March 30, 2006 at 1:06 pm

Is the Portage going to open soon?

Broan on March 30, 2006 at 3:34 am

In contrast to the bustling six corners of the 1950s, as seen in this previously-posted picture, It was a much different place in the 1920s when the theater rose. Here are four pictures from the Chicago Daily News, taken in 1922. 1 2 3 4 Notice that in photos 1, 2, and 3, the Portage Park Theatre’s smokestack is visible. The facade would probably be partly visible if the photos were higher resolution. Also notice that the corner store shown in these pictures remains there; here is how it looks now, for reference.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 20, 2006 at 4:00 am

Brian: it appears you are correct. My uncle invited me to breakfast, coincidentally, this past weekend. I asked him about the Portage. He doesn’t think it was a Rapp & Rapp. He says it doesn’t appear on any of the records or job lists that he has. I don’t know where I got the idea that it was designed by them, or why that notion hasn’t been contradicted in all these years I have held it.

Broan on March 5, 2006 at 3:16 pm

Oh, I didn’t know that- how interesting!

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 5, 2006 at 3:14 pm

You may recall that I am related to the Rapps. This information comes from my uncle, the family historian. I’ll double-check with him the next time we speak. Admittedly, it’s been a long time since we discussed the subject. I also recall seeing something in THSA documents when I did volunteer work for them years back (late 80’s). So you could always get in touch with them to verify. Those guys always know what they are talking about.

Broan on March 5, 2006 at 3:06 pm

Really? Where did you find that out? I looked all over looking for information and couldn’t find anything until Dennis told me that. Newhouse was often the architect for the Ascher Brothers; I don’t know of any Ascher theaters from the Rapps. Very interesting!

Some other bits of the Portage’s history that have gone unmentioned here so far: During construction, the Portage was at the center of a Union extortion case involving the theater’s door installations; In 1929 the Aschers sold this and several other theaters of theirs to Fox; in 1932 it was turned over to the GCS circuit and recieved some remodeling, redecorating, and new seats; about 1940, it recieved its streamline moderne lobby, in accordance with the art deco character of Six Corners following the Klee and Sears buildings, and also had a very pretty art deco marquee and vitrolite/cararra glass entrance; in 1941 it became part of the Balaban and Katz chain, then abc/great states; by 1975 it was part of the Brotman & Sherman chain, then it was VERY briefly a live house called the Portage Palace, hosting country acts such as Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn… and those were the only two before booker Bob Briggs was tossed out and future shows cancelled. They tried again in 1977 with a Eddie Money/Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers show, but that was all. M&R took over in 1980 and briefly experimented with a laser light show before twinning the Portage.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 5, 2006 at 2:29 pm

Brian: the Portage was designed by Rapp & Rapp.

Broan on March 5, 2006 at 2:05 pm

Also, Dennis says that the Architect was Henry Newhouse.

Broan on March 5, 2006 at 2:04 pm

From this week’s Chicago Reader ‘The Business’ column: “The Silent Film Society was booted from the Gateway Theatre a year ago, but expects to inaugurate a new home base this spring at the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee. Film Society head and former Gateway manager Dennis Wolkowicz is one of three members of a management team that has taken a long-term lease (with option to buy) on the 85-year-old Portage. Wolkowicz says they spiffed it up, returned it to a single auditorium format, and are just awaiting (what else?) the PPA license. It’ll have 1,350 seats and will offer live music and talkiesâ€"classic, revival, independent, documentary, and foreign moviesâ€"along with the silent films.”

It looks wonderful and I eagerly await its opening.

mp775 on March 1, 2006 at 12:01 pm

SFSC’s silent film festival was postponed, due to delays in the permitting process. Guess we’ll have to keep waiting…

mp775 on January 30, 2006 at 8:43 am

There’s still no word on the Silent Film Society of Chicago’s own site, but the West End Jazz Band lists the Portage’s opening night this Friday, 2/3/06, on their events page.

rroberts on December 22, 2005 at 12:20 am

Brian: The reporter for the Crane’s piece ambushed us all. The title of the article tips us off as to his intent: “Theatre Debacles…” It’s not a bad photo of me though… Any word on the reopening of the Portage? I wonder if Dennis is OK with the city anc the PPA?

Broan on December 17, 2005 at 8:05 pm

The only thing that article is good for is the pictures.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on December 17, 2005 at 6:29 pm

Here is a great link to an article about the pitfalls of theatre restoration. It is from CRAINS CHICAGO BUSINESS.

View link