Uptown Theatre

4816 N. Broadway,
Chicago, IL 60640

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Showing 151 - 175 of 464 comments

TheaterBuff1 on August 1, 2008 at 8:40 pm

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 1, 2008 at 6:39 pm

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 1, 2008 at 6:25 pm

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 30, 2008 at 9:46 pm

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 30, 2008 at 6:52 pm

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 30, 2008 at 5:05 pm

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 30, 2008 at 4:16 pm

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 3:41 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 12:03 pm

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

uptownjen on July 30, 2008 at 11:01 am

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 7:05 am

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 29, 2008 at 11:36 pm

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 29, 2008 at 6:29 pm

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 29, 2008 at 4:34 pm

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 12:46 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 12:42 pm

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

Jayne1955 on July 29, 2008 at 11:13 am

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 10:42 am

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 10:41 am

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

RobertR on July 29, 2008 at 5:55 am

Will the Dupage page ever get unlocked? I would love to know how the battle ended and if the facade and marquee were saved?

TheaterBuff1 on July 29, 2008 at 2:41 am

Rene Rabiela Jr. and Uptownjen, if I understand you both correctly, essentially you’re saying that the same formula that was applied to bringing down the DuPage is now about to be applied to the Uptown as well, all under the guise of an “effort” being made to “save” it. I’m starting to better understand this pattern now, though I was a bit slow at first.

uptownjen on July 28, 2008 at 7:42 pm

first off, thanks, william, for your clarification. i don’t know much about these things, but i hope it isn’t a factor in this case anyway.

rene, thanks for your thoughts as well. i hope you are right.

i just received an email from friends of the uptown, which tells of coverage of tomorrow’s auction and details of what might be in store for the jewel of the neighborhood i call home.

UPTOWN on the radio Tuesday

Eight Forty-Eight reporters have been working since last Friday on
covering the scheduled judicial auction of the UPTOWN THEATRE
property, 4816 N. Broadway, in Chicago, which is set for tomorrow,
Tuesday, July 29.

(The best of our collective understanding is…) This sale was
rescheduled from previously cancelled dates. It is based on a judge's
decision to force two parties to sell their interests to one party.

What’s for sale? The property and all of its debt, including debt
from previous owners borrowing against it and from liens for services
provided, such as scaffolding and stabilization.

Observers anticipate that two known prospects – JAM Productions and
Live Nation, who each own portions of the debt – will be first in
line at the sale. However, no specific plans or intentions have been
made public.

Purchasing the building and its debt could be a first step toward
renovation and reuse. However, one has to keep in mind that tens of
millions of dollars will be needed after satisfying the purchase cost
and debt in order to actually renovate the theatre for some
entertainment use.

The news radio show Eight Forty-Eight airs at 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. on
WBEZ, 91.5 FM, in Chicago and streams online via:


Both Crain’s Chicago Business and rock critic Jim DeRogatis have
covered this topic well in recent stories.

View link

View link

TeamUptown on July 28, 2008 at 12:41 pm

For the past five years the Uptown Theater Renovation Project,
has worked extremely hard in making the case for the Uptown
Theater to be renovated, so that future generations could enjoy this magnificent venue. It was no easy task to convince anyone to spend
millions of dollars to restore it to its former glory.
I am the son of the last person to operate this magnificent venue,
Rene Rabiela SR. And it’s no big secret I have a big soft spot for the place. So after seeing organization’s come and go, I felt the responsibility of making sure that theater didnt go the way of the Granada or any of the other demolished movie palaces we all miss.
So when I put together U.T.R.P. I wanted to make sure that it would not fail the way other’s did in the past. I am extremely proud of the team I put together. Everyone on this team shared the same passion for the Uptown as I did. We brought in the big promoter's
and we showed them how they could spend all those millions and make it back in a reasonable amount of time. It wasnt easy, AEG, passed on the theater, saying for the amount it would take to renovate
the theater they could build a new one. We brought in Elevated,
formerly Clear Channel, now Live Nation. Our passion was shared
with Live Nation as well as with Jam Production’s. And now the theater that everyone seemingly wrote off, is now being fought over.
The worse appears to over? Let’s hope that as my good friend David Balaban say’s this is the end, but really the beginning.

Rene Rabiela Jr.

William on July 28, 2008 at 11:42 am

uptownjen, People think because of the size of that building it would be difficult to remove. Theatres are much easier to raze than other types of buildings. I’ve seen a few large buildings in Times Square get razed without any problems to the neighboring stores and restaurants in the area.

uptownjen on July 28, 2008 at 5:37 am

the area that the uptown is slowly improving right now. still, i think it has been said before in the past that, due to its size and location, it would take a whole lot of money to demolish. (the dupage, referred to in the last post, was 1/5 the seating size of the uptown and much less ornate. it was also located in a seperate block of its own, from all the pictures i’ve seen. the uptown is located in the middle of a block surrounded by mostly bars and hip restaurants, making it much more difficult and expensive to remove.) i hope that works in favor of saving it. i don’t think that the land is super “hot” (at least, not yet!)and the condo market is pretty cold here right now, with many new, empty condos awaiting occupancy in the area, so that also makes me think it won’t be demolished.

so far, i would say that the biggest threat to the place would be having a show promotion company of some sort buy it to eliminate possible competition and then leave it to sit and decay. (this has been mentioned in various articles in chicago papers, since both jam, a local promoter, and live nation, a national promoter, want to buy it.) i hate to say it, but i myself would much rather see it reused in some way than just to sit there, a few blocks from where i live, rotting and dying a slow death. it’s still lovely…it just needs some new life breathed into it.

hopefully, with the sale, the city will stipulate that whoever buys it has to put money into restoring it. that was done recently with the sale of the regal on the south side. still, i don’t know how possible it is, at this point, for the city to intervene, being that the sale is supposedly being handled by an outside foreclosure auctioneer.