Esquire Theatre

58 E. Oak Street,
Chicago, IL 60611

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Showing 151 - 175 of 181 comments

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on April 13, 2006 at 9:51 am

I came around the bend where Oak Street hits Lake Shore Drive the other night, and there was the Esquire’s vertical sign blazing away. It may be a multiplex now. But it is still very cool to look at during the night.

barryr on February 10, 2006 at 6:48 pm

I have fond memories of the Esquire. My dad and I went there to see “Blazing Saddles” when it first opened. I remember going there myself to see an early Brian dePalma film called “Phantom of the Paradise.” And most memorable of all, standing outside the theater for an hour on a hot summer afternoon before getting in to see “Star Wars.” It seemed like the Esquire—and its neighbor, the Carnegie—showed films that were not only popular, but kind of hip.

rivest266 on January 18, 2006 at 2:31 pm

I found the Grand opening ad (full page) for this theatre, Feb 16 1938 p 17

“Theatre of Magnificent Comfort” it opened with “The Firefly”

DBalaban on December 24, 2005 at 7:27 am

H and E Balaban was never owned by Paramount as far as I know. Where did you get this information?
Please let me know. Thanks

Mikeoaklandpark on November 28, 2005 at 6:57 am

Who knows what will happen after AMC gets it hands on this theater.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on November 28, 2005 at 6:37 am

This seems to be Loews’s “art house” (somewhat) for the Downtown Chicago area. Recently, they’ve shown “March of the Penguins”, “Shopgirl”, “Capote”, and “Good Night & Good Luck”. It seems to have been cleaned up somewhat and it’s not an unpleasant place to see a show. I hope that Loews keeps it open so that those of us who live near the Loop (Downtown Chicago) have a place to go to see the fare mentioned above.

Coate on August 9, 2005 at 10:53 pm

“Obviously, major changes had to be made [to the Esquire] by the time the 70mm ‘Star Wars’ opened in 1977.” (veyoung, Nov 25, 2004)

What makes you think the Esquire ran a 70mm print of “Star Wars”?

WPilgreen on August 9, 2005 at 4:01 pm

The Esquire was built and owned by H&E Theaters, (the ‘H’ and ‘E’ being the two youngest brothers in the Balaban family.)

Throughout the fifties and into the sixties, H&E was a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures. But the Esquire itself was not managed by Paramount; it was their only theater holding after the 1949 consent-decree split of the studio and United Paramount Theaters because Paramount had its regional sales and distribution office in the buidling.

The architect William Pereira did considerable work for Paramount, including an expansion of the Hollywood studio.

gregmag on April 24, 2005 at 2:20 am

Fond memories of this palace too. Ditching school and standing in line for the 1st show of Star Wars, getting sucked into the world of Blade Runner, riding high in the Right Stuff, the plane shots in Out of Africa. Damn I hate multiplexes!!

Broan on March 18, 2005 at 8:05 am

The real estate is probably just too expensive there. If it weren’t, I would imagine someone like Village would jump on it.

JohnSanchez on March 18, 2005 at 7:57 am

I think the reason the McClurg closed was because the 21 screen River East opened just a few blocks away. The Esquire really doesn’t have any nearby competition. The closest ones which were just a few blocks away were 900 North and Water Tower and those both closed. Had they gone by interior quality McClurg would easily still be open. Hopefully someone will buy it and make it an art house or maybe even a place where classic films can be seen on the big screen.

br91975 on March 17, 2005 at 5:44 pm

Granted, the Esquire has a rather remarkable exterior, but given its bland, late-‘80s, post-renovation interior, it’s a bit stunning how this theatre was allowed to stay open and Loews instead opted to close the McClurg Court Cinemas.

Broan on February 20, 2005 at 2:44 pm

The Esquire was gutted and remodeled by the Gelick Foran Associates in 1989. When it reopened, the chain was M&R/Loews. The lobby appears to be mostly the same as it was in the original building. An article on the renovation was published, “The March of Time-the Remaking of Chicago’s Esquire”, Inland Architect, November 1991

Broan on December 11, 2004 at 3:13 pm

I went there for the first time yesterday, and i’ll never go again. Half the sidelights in the 300-some seat I was in were burnt out, and the print was absolutely abysmal at no more than 2 weeks old. It was stretched on the pletter from start to finish, so every frame had horizontal scratches and vertical scratches. The stretching also made the audio horrible, it had static on everything. And on top of all that, it was slightly off focus. Just awful. Plus a red exit sign right next to the screen. The only kind words I have for it are that they didn’t show a slideshow before the 15 minutes of commercials, and the seats were at least halfway comfortable. The lobby did look art deco though- is it certain that they demolished both the orginal lobby and auditorium? The three-floor layout seems fairly consistent. All in all though, the exterior is the only worthwhile part of this theater. I want my 9.50 back.

veyoung52 on November 25, 2004 at 5:18 am

This really stretches the memory cells, but here goes: I used to have a set of Encyclopedia Brittanica’s with the yearbook of 1948 or 1949. There was a photograph of the Esquire’s auditorium. The proscenium consisted of a series of rectangular “concentric” arches that “enclosed” a smallish 1.33:1 screen. When I saw this photo in the 1950’s I said to myself that that house could never show ‘scope. As I recall through reading the “theatre grosses” section of “Variety,” no scope films at all were shown in the 1950’s. Later research turned up the fact that during that period the theatre was managed, or at least booked, by Paramount Distribution Corporation. Paramount at that time, as I’m sure you realize, had only a handful of 2.35:1 releases (if any at all) at that time. Obviously, major changes had to be made there by the time the 70mm “Star Wars” opened in 1977.

Broan on October 20, 2004 at 11:10 pm

Here are a couple closeup shots from Chicago Uncommon:
View link
View link

uptownadviser on August 6, 2004 at 3:06 pm

The brief history of the theatrer, above, states “landmarked exterior.” Where is that documented?

To my knowlege, the building has no such protection.

It was once proposed for city landmark designation but was declined and cannot be re-proposed because of ordinance preventing a second bite at the apple, so to speak.

Mikeoaklandpark on July 30, 2004 at 5:59 am

Great picture Bryan. How did they divide the theater? I also know that when I was in Chicago, Loews had another theater on State street down from the art museum called the Fine Arts/Brubaker. Since I no longer see it listed, I assume it’s closed.

br91975 on July 6, 2004 at 2:01 pm

Right – the 600 N. Michigan; it’s been a LONG day…

JohnSanchez on July 6, 2004 at 1:51 pm

Actually the 900 N Michigan is closed. I think you meant to say 600 N Michigan.

br91975 on July 6, 2004 at 1:49 pm

Actually, there are currently three operating theatres in downtown Chicago – the 900 N. Michigan Cinemas, the AMC River East 21, and, of course, the Esquire.

Mikeoaklandpark on July 6, 2004 at 1:42 pm

Even though I have never been inside, the thater is beautiful from the outside. I can only hope Loews does not deceide to close this theater. In 200 there was 4 theaters in downtown Chicago, now there are 2. There was the Fine Arts aka Stuabaker that closed sometime between 2000 and when I went back in 2002

richardg on March 18, 2004 at 7:03 pm

The only time I was in the Esquire was in 1966, when I saw “Endless Summer”. Its expansive marquee was quite impressive. The almost stark interior was in sharp contrast to the more opulent Chicago B&K movie palaces like the Granada, Uptown, and Chicago theatres. The chome or stainless steal railings were in sharp contrast to the softer toned wood and brass railings to which I was accustomed.
I believe the Esquire was under the Playboy fold in the 60’s and 70’s. I think it was purchased shortly after Hugh bought the Palmolive building.