Uptown Theatre

4816 N. Broadway,
Chicago, IL 60640

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DavidZornig on August 24, 2008 at 12:58 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 23, 2008 at 11:32 pm

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 22, 2008 at 8:13 pm

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 2:30 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 2:02 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 12:32 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 12:39 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 11:50 am

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 10:30 am

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 10:17 am

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 6:15 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 1:12 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 5:14 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 2:54 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 1:29 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 12:48 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.

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This will be enfored.

uptownadviser on August 4, 2008 at 12:25 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 10:40 am

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 8:21 am

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 1:53 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.

TheaterBuff1 on August 4, 2008 at 1:38 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 3, 2008 at 11:52 pm

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 11:07 am

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 2:33 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 10:34 am

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