Uptown Theatre

4816 North Broadway,
Chicago, IL 60640

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TheaterBuff1 on August 4, 2008 at 6:38 am

What you’re saying is that the Uptown was off to a bad start, in other words, but over time it overcame this because the theater itself was so great. And that’s saying a great deal for the Uptown Theatre actually. I’d be curious to know what caused the delay, while trying to envision what things were like in Chicago in 1925 that might’ve caused it. I don’t know how hot the summers get up there in Chicago, but 1925 was before air-conditioning, was it not? So I’m thinking an extraordinary heatwave might’ve been a contributing factor. Also, the building of movie palaces at that time, as opposed to silent movie houses, was still in its experimental infancy, creating circumstances whereby the audiences would’ve been a bit more understanding than they would’ve been otherwise — an excuse that simply cannot be used in today’s world when it comes to reopening movie palaces.

If my assumptions are correct regarding how it was in 1925, apparently things were much better along three years later, because the Boyd movie palace here in Philadelphia, PA was scheduled to open on Christmas Day, 1928, and by golly it did! Maybe it did so based on a hard lesson learned from what happened regarding the Uptown’s delayed opening three years earlier, who knows? Any info on what the public’s reaction was when the Uptown’s grand opening was delayed by 17 days? It would be a sad statement about the Uptown, at least at the onset, if there wasn’t any.

Jayne1955 on August 4, 2008 at 4:52 am

BWChicago, can I please compliment you for that post? I loved it. I almost spit peach tea all over my keyboard, but I mean that in a good way.

Broan on August 3, 2008 at 4:07 pm

When the Uptown was announced in the Chicago Tribune on February 3, 1924, it was stated that the planned opening date was April 1, 1925. It opened August 18th.

TheaterBuff1 on August 3, 2008 at 7:33 am

Using a retroactive approach, there has to be a resolve what we want the end result to be, when we want this to be, and then we have to fill in how we got from Point A — where the Uptown is now — to Point B — where we want it to be, and when.

In my saying this, a good example that comes to mind is the Olympics. Imagine if on the day the Olympics is scheduled to begin we get told, “Er, it’s not ready yet, folks, please give us another year or so before it finally will be.” When it comes to the Olympics such an occurrence is unthinkable. It’s quite clear the show must go on when it’s scheduled to go on, no ifs, and or buts. And to the best of my knowledge no hosting city ever dropped the ball when it came to this. And while I understand that when the Uptown is fully restored it’s to be a thing of permanence and not merely temporary, why should they make a difference really? When the first Disneyland in Anaheim was scheduled to open on such and such a date, it opened on that date, and that was (and remains) a thing of permanence. And it’s really the only way to get things done in my opinion.

And in the Uptown’s case so much that needs to be done to make the dream real has already been done. It’s passed the two massive barriers of finding the best location for it and the best architects to design it. It’s already located in one of the greatest cities in the U.S., and believe me, theater architects don’t come better than Rapp & Rapp! And that much is all fully squared away now. So now comes the big question when will it be reopened, and all the rest is just fill in the pieces — the same as it is when it comes to the Olympics, or building Disneyland. People do it, you know. Why should it be any different here?

HowardBHaas on August 2, 2008 at 3:34 pm

I believe the Uptown will be gorgeously restored and reopened! I just doubt the items mentioned in the Crain’s article.

charles1954 on August 2, 2008 at 1:22 pm

Remember the old Chicago motto: I WILL! Despite rampant negativism, the city has always achieved what it sets out to do – despite all odds.
I have a very positive feeling, that this is really going to work out for the best of the Uptown Theatre and all those dedicated advocates, who have never given up hope – after all these years. We are most certain to see this architectural jewel restored to its former glory! YES WE WILL! YES WE CAN!

TheaterBuff1 on August 2, 2008 at 4:40 am

Well my hope, of course, is that the Uptown’s restoration will show a totally different variation on the word “realistic,” as opposed to what we saw in the Boyd Theatre’s case in Philadelphia, PA, and that the Uptown’s restoration will demonstrate that what those in Philly insist can’t be done CAN be done. I see no reason why the Uptown’s restoration can’t work, and within the time frame presented, if it’s strictly adhered to.

And my hope is that those involved with the Boyd will be able to humbly watch and learn from what they observe, and apply the lessons learned to restoring the Boyd.

One can dream, can’t he?

HowardBHaas on August 2, 2008 at 2:39 am

The ADA often will require elevators, accessible seating, etc. but fundamentally is consistent with a restoration.

As to this above post:
According to a Crain’s article the Jam/Freed partnership is required by court order to place $5M in an escrow account 30 days after being awarded title and have a renovation financing plan in place 90 days after that. Renovation is required to be complete in about 2 and a half years.

The Crain’s article quotes somebody as stating that, but it seems unrealistic that $5 mil will be put in escow, that a renovation financing plan will be in place within 90 days, and iffy as to the 2.5 year timetable. Substantial public funding takes time to obtain.

TeamUptown on August 2, 2008 at 2:25 am

Scott: I heard the deadline was monday, in Berlin?
I think we would all like it to look as it did in August of 1925.
But we all know that’s just not going to happen.
The American’s With Disability’s Act,alone is one thing that will
stop this from being a restoration as oppossed to a renovation.
City code’s. All go into more detail later.


Jayne1955 on July 31, 2008 at 5:46 am

I agree if the downtown can be turned around, Uptown can. Uptown was not exactly a total dead zone, although it got close at times. I taught for awhile at St. Thomas of Canterbury, around the corner, and both the church and the nearby McCormick Boys Club worked real hard to keep the neighborhood from going completely downhill. You always had the Green Mill, too. The Green Mill was drawing jazz fans even when the neighborhood was not so hot. The theatre would make a huge difference, but it’s got to have parking like downtown, where you don’t have to walk TOO far. I know the El is close and the buses stop right out front, but you still will have people who want to drive.

Darrel Wood
Darrel Wood on July 31, 2008 at 2:52 am

It is a very daunting task, but one thing that the Uptown has (unlike the DuPage), at least partially, is a city government that is not fighting against it. The alderman is very much in favor of renovating the Uptown, and the City in general is in support. The theatre district downtown showed what happens when a city sits tight and allows the process to happen—-the Loop at night was a dead zone back when the Chicago reopened. Uptown has a more vibrant nighttime scene already. And yes, even if it all happens, compromises will be made, but the ultimate goal is getting that big, old barn back to life.

Jayne1955 on July 31, 2008 at 1:05 am

It’s not hysteria, guys. Really it isn’t, at least not with me. It’s pessimism, and I’ll admit that, but I am not without hope. Maybe some people still are, but I’m not. I’m delighted that at least the ownership question is settled. (Then if it DOES get screwed up, I’ll have someone concrete to blame again…JUST KIDDING!) But we aren’t out of the woods yet, just because this theatre has an owner again, and I don’t think it’s wrong to admit that. It has an owner, but it’s still in deplorable condition from neglect, and much larger than a lot of people realize.

This particular theatre was not surpassed in size until Radio City Music Hall was built in the 1930’s. We’re talking about a 46,000 square foot messy main floor, and over 4,000 (4,381 was the number I was given at the Theater Historical Society conclave in 1977) rotting seats. It had three marquees, three lobbies, six public lounges and the dome is 120 feet.

You people who have actually been there know how overpowering it is, and how daunting that makes this job. If any of you have not, you can’t tell by the pictures. Trust me. I used to play flashlight tag in there at night, and it was so easy to disappear, it wasn’t funny.

bruceanthony on July 31, 2008 at 12:16 am

Jayne the list of restored theatres across the country keeps growing. The restoration of the huge Fox-Oakland which sat nearly 3500 is undergoing a massive first rate restoration after sitting vacant nearly 35 years. It will be booked by Another Planet which books pop/rock acts in several locations. The Paramount which sat nearly 3500 is just around the corner from the Fox and was restored in the early 1970’s. Oakland is only a City of 400,000 but it has now managed to restore two of the largest theatres on the West Coast. The City and State helped fund the Fox but most of it came from grants with very little funding coming from the general public. It is a 46 Million project which will include a charter school being built around the Fox as well as restoraiton of the theatre. They have gone to the public for 5 Million to finish some of the restoration work. When Jam takes ownership of the Uptown many grants will come there way both Federal,State and City. Maybe they can get funding from many of the local corporations such as Boeing and Bank of America who help fund the Fox. The former Mayor of Oakland Jerry Brown got the ball rolling and Jam will need help from the City. I hope the Civic leaders can do whatever they can to see the restoration actually happen. Once restored the Uptown should take its place among the greatest theatres still standing in North America.brucec

Jayne1955 on July 30, 2008 at 11:41 pm

I want to have faith, but let’s face it. We’ve all been kicked in the gut a lot of times. This is a torturous little exclusive club we’re in. And as the poet, Asleigh Brilliant, once said, Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you.

TeamUptown on July 30, 2008 at 8:03 pm

Everyone take a deep breath!
Nazi Germany? Sitting on the Uptown?,Who’s next?
Have faith!

uptownjen on July 30, 2008 at 7:01 pm

if what you say is true, k1052, it makes me a little less nervous. if the city is holding the owner accountable, it has to be a good thing.

k1052 on July 30, 2008 at 3:05 pm

According to a Crain’s article the Jam/Freed partnership is required by court order to place $5M in an escrow account 30 days after being awarded title and have a renovation financing plan in place 90 days after that. Renovation is required to be complete in about 2 and a half years.

If Mickelson was planning on sitting on the property that’s not going to work. He better get busy shaking down the city for TIF money.

TheaterBuff1 on July 30, 2008 at 7:36 am

RobertR, yes, the DuPage came down in its entirety and you can read all about it at this link (but please be forewarned of the very very upsetting photo they show) — View link

I don’t know how that story could’ve happened in America! Nazi Germany, yes, but in America? No, this was not what we’re supposed to be about. And I don’t know how anybody could operate a wrecking crane against a building such as that, and not feel the great disgrace of what it is they’re doing. For I look at that building and those who sincerely sought to restore it and can only ask, what crime? What crime did it commit? What crime was here? This had been a beautiful, beautiful theater and something that anyone should be so lucky to have. And when they took this theater down they weren’t just attacking a theater but a whole culture of people. We talk about trying to introduce laws against hate crimes in this country? Well here you go, folks. Take a look. For if this wasn’t a hate crime among hate crimes I don’t know what is.

Those who enjoyed watching the DuPage come down and asked what the big deal was? Well, here’s what the big deal was. They should try designing a theater such as that themselves and see what little they could do to even begin to hold a candle to it. To take one’s hand against another’s art and then walk away totally scot free, that’s not a crime? What kind of country are we? In this instance they did it because they could. And nobody was there to stop them. Why?

And I ask what’s to stop that same element if it decides to go after the Uptown next? I sure hope there’s a good answer to that. Otherwise, God help us.

uptownjen on July 30, 2008 at 2:29 am

the more i look into this, the worse it gets…

the sun-times article upset me even more when i looked into the possible partner mentioned by JAM, joseph freed and associates. from their own website, it looks like they are mostly interested in residential and mixed-use facilities.

here’s their slogan on their website: “an entrepreneurial real estate company that develops, acquires, and operates retail and mixed-use properties nationally with dedication to long-term value creation.” i don’t know about you, but i think that says a lot about what THEIR plans are for a building like the uptown.

here’s a blog from someone who knows about this company:

Heads up vendors, suppliers and others in the Madison, Wisconsin market: Joseph Freed & Associates is all about sticking it to you. Beyond changing the face and plans of their Hilldale project countless times and reneging on promises to retailers regarding the residential community they were going to bring them (there are no more plans for residential), they turn on their suppliers and leave them holding the bags on hundreds of thousands of dollars that, suddenly, after months and months, they either decide to contest or just don’t pay. It’s not just Madison either. Check out their history in Denver! Where are the Madison lawmakers in this?

this all just looks horrible to me. i’m sick about it.

Darrel Wood
Darrel Wood on July 30, 2008 at 12:34 am

If it’s going to be restored, it will need public funds. No private company will finance something like this renovation out of completely private funds. (Even Disney, which has dumped millions on its theatres, has tight purse strings).
But at least untangling the ownership/mortgage mess will help get this thing rolling. Perhaps a public/private joint venture will allow the funding to get pulled together. Part of that big restoration cost will be building additional parking for the neighborhood.

uptownjen on July 29, 2008 at 8:46 pm

i meant to say that jam already puts on shows at the aragon AND owns the riv.

the state of the riv is what really scares me into thinking that they may have bought it for a reason other than restoration.

i hate that i sound like cynic now. i love the uptown, and, still, at the end of the day, want to see it restored to all of its former glory! i guess a buyer is a step toward a good outcome, right?

uptownjen on July 29, 2008 at 8:42 pm

jam…a third venue in the neighborhood? this worries me…i hope i’m wrong.

Jayne1955 on July 29, 2008 at 7:13 pm

I don’t just want the facade and marquee saved. I want this theatre used for the purpose it was intended. We don’t need another Century.

Melodance on July 29, 2008 at 6:42 pm

There’s a good article in today’s Trib by Chris Jones. Also read the reader’s comments, many are hoping for a positive outcome.

View link

Let’s hope this auction does what Chris says—put the theatre on its way to renovation and finally reopening!

TeamUptown on July 29, 2008 at 6:41 pm

Just got off the phone with Arny Granet Jam own’s the Uptown Theater!