Nortown Theater

6320 N. Western Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60659

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Showing 176 - 200 of 226 comments

Broan
Broan on May 30, 2006 at 3:01 pm

Still there. There’s a good picture of it and the rest of the nortown in one of the three or four pictoral history books on Chicago’s north side. Sorry I can’t be more specific.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on May 30, 2006 at 11:39 am

From what I vaguely recall, there used to be a billboard/mural painted on the outside of the building advertising the Nortown. It was quite faded, but still readable. Is it still there?

(As a side note, some years ago the Sun-Times or Tribune did an article on faded mural/billboards of the past still visible. Some included the above-mentioned Nortown, a Fox Deluxe beer ad on Lawrence Avenue, and the Lee Workwear ad opposite Dearborn Station).

Batwoman
Batwoman on May 25, 2006 at 4:05 pm

Those pictures are just…

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on May 25, 2006 at 3:52 pm

Per Life’s Too Short’s comment above regarding Cineplex-Odeon’s operation of the NORTOWN: It seems to me that initially, C-O really did try to make an ernest go of it in the Chicagoland Area. LTS’s post states that C-O did try to operate the Nortown as an attractive place, even after tri-plexing. C-O, from articles I read, renovated a number of theatres in the Chicagoland Area and constructed new ones (most of which have already since closed). So what went so wrong that C-O went into bankruptcy in the 1990s?

And if you really want to see pictures of the Nortown in decay, check out this:

View link

mp775
mp775 on April 9, 2006 at 1:14 pm

A source in the community says the owner is putting “shops on the first floor, banquet facilities on the second floor, and a theater on the third floor.” Not exactly sure if that’s going to be fit into the existing main floor/balcony configuration or if new floors will be built in the building’s shell.

Batwoman
Batwoman on April 5, 2006 at 2:24 am

If I had the money I’d find the blueprints and anythng else of the original artwork/plans I could and basically rebuild it someplace worthy of it.

too bad I’m broke.

I doubt there would have been any way of having this declared as a national historic landmark. I can dream can’t I?

Nortown
Nortown on April 5, 2006 at 2:17 am

Brian, those pictures are just so depressing to me. I worked at the Nortown from 1977 to 1984. Batwoman, I also have dreams about my days working at the Nortown. Those pictures indicate to me that the Nortown has gone so far downhill that it will never be re-opened as a movie theatre. Financially, I doubt that the neighborhood could support the Nortown as a theatre again. I remember working there some weeknights when 30 people would show up to sit in a 2,000 seat theatre. And of course, the money to rehab the building would be huge. It sort of reminds me of the Uptown Theatre. My gut tells me that the best thing to do would be to tear down the building and just have memories.

Batwoman
Batwoman on April 5, 2006 at 2:02 am

ah, might help if I wander around the boards there then. ;P

Thanks! I’m actually (FINALLY) taking my vacation the week of the 16th and am seriously thinking of making a trip down to the city just so I can see if I can wander around the old place myself. Its odd but I’ve been having a lot of dreams about Nortown lately. All current day but it looks like it did pre triplex. The last one I had, oddly enough, was different. The theater was still there, or at least the main floor of the auditorium but the balcony wasn’t (at least I don’t remember seeing the balcony) yet the ceiling was entac and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I whiped out my camera and took pictures.

Now the odd thing about this is the theater was also a mall, I guess like the Century. Only the theater was downstairs while the mall was upstairs.

don’t ask where that came from. I have yet to figure it out. lol

Broan
Broan on April 5, 2006 at 1:54 am

Those particular pictures were taken from the sidewalk at like 9pm; the big door they ripped in the side of the auditorium has a bunch of big gaps along the edges. But sometimes abandoned theaters are be poorly secured; in fact i’m not even sure the doors were locked, I just didn’t care to find out. If a theater is open you generally ask unless you’re going to be undetected which is difficult because a flash is usually necessary. There’s been a good deal of discussion on this topic on the forums at cinematour.com

Batwoman
Batwoman on April 5, 2006 at 1:31 am

Out of curiosity, for those of you that have taken pictures inside theaters, how is it you’ve done that. By that I mean do you just walk in with a camera and start snapping away or do you actually ask for permission, especially since its done when the theater isn’t open to the general public?

sorry, just thought of that

Batwoman
Batwoman on April 5, 2006 at 1:23 am

I don’t get how people can do that to something so grand

Broan
Broan on April 5, 2006 at 12:42 am

Okay, here they are.
View link

Batwoman
Batwoman on April 4, 2006 at 5:05 pm

Total random comment but I was just at the McDonalds in Libertyville and due to a downed machine, had to wait a few minutes for my food. I noticed they have a Wurlitzer jukebox.

Nortown
Nortown on April 4, 2006 at 4:18 pm

I can confirm that the painting of the auditorium walls was done after Cineplex Odeon (the successor to Plitt Theatres) closed and sold the Nortown.

Batwoman
Batwoman on April 4, 2006 at 2:25 pm

Regarding the triplex. I was so tired last night that I forgot just now it was split. What they did was close off the balcony to make 1 theater up there and the main floor was split in 2. Just like they did with the Skokie theater years ago.

The painted walls had to have been done after the place closed as a theater. I remember all the lovlies were still there during the triplex years. I still think that was the dumbest thing they could have done to that place.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on April 4, 2006 at 2:15 pm

Post them, Brian. We need to see them, even if they aren’t pretty. As theatre enthusiasts, it behooves us to see photos of deterioration and destruction as well as preservation.

Broan
Broan on April 4, 2006 at 3:51 am

All right, i’ll give a pretty detailed assessment of what the building is like now, but I have to warn you, you probably won’t want to hear it if you remember it as a grand theater. Today was the first time I have personally seen inside; I saw more extensive photos a year ago. The exterior looks the same as in the photos posted December 14.

I can’t really tell what, if any, work has gone on there beyond installing the door. There are some cracks around the edges of the door and the auditorium floor is visible. The terra cotta panels removed to install the door are stacked inside the auditorium. I can see what LTS means about the main floor being split and not the balcony; the church must have taken the partition out while they were there. And the balcony is clearly too small to have been split in half, but I can see how it might have worked as a single. Anyway, the interior matches photos i’ve seen from october 2004 exactly. In those photos, the entire interior is shown having been painted, murals and all, in light blue, dark blue, white, gold, and silver. It’s really jarring to do a side-by-side comparison of its 1982-3 condition and its present- it is so stark and unadorned without the murals. I don’t know when this paint dates from- the triplexing? The same debris seen in the 2004 photos, an old RC fridge and a freezer, still sits near the stage in precisely the same position, so I think it’s likely that virtually no work has gone on. It looks to me like the main damage done to the theater in the triplexing was the front of the main floor. Probably, having the murals painted over did much more harm. I don’t think it will ever be restored to its original glory, but maybe, just maybe, the renovation could possibly be completed. At this point, I think it looks bleak. I have photos, but I hesitate to post them.

johnlauter
johnlauter on April 4, 2006 at 1:25 am

Brian’s photo link from the chicago historical society is great! My late friend John Seng is playing the Wurlitzer console in That 1960 photo, He told me of that picture—he was engaged to play for a fashon show there, and went to practice, when that photo was taken. John was one of the very best who chose to make music on the Wurlitzer.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on April 3, 2006 at 11:30 pm

I saw movies here when it was a CO triplex. The main floor was split from the balcony with a horizontal floor. But it was the former main floor that was split in two. The former balcony was one theatre (the largest), and they still lit the stars and some colored lights within the sidewalls. It was hacked up, to be sure. But the balcony was still a nice place to see a movie. I saw “Leviathan” up there. New screen was in front of the procenium decoration. The whole place was clean, and the staff was well-dressed (CO uniforms with bow ties, vests, name plates) and attentive. The old marquee was retained and relit, chasers and all. They replaced the 50’s attraction boards with a more modern variety. It was really a pretty nice place (if you can call a vintage triplex refit that under any circumstances).

Nortown
Nortown on April 3, 2006 at 10:12 pm

As to when the theatre was tri-plexed, it was in 1984. The last movie to be shown at the Nortown as a single theatre that year was “Footloose”. I was working as a relief manager for Plitt Theatres that year. Once the theatre was tripled, it lost much of its grandeur with the exception of the lobby and staircase. Prior to it being tripled, there was moderate water damage over the years to the interior of the auditorium. Plitt never wanted to invest money into the repair of this damage. I have wanted to go see what condition the theatre is currently in, but part of me does not want to see what it is like now.

Batwoman
Batwoman on April 3, 2006 at 7:12 pm

If anyone that’s near there can get current pictures I think we’d all appreciate it.

mp775
mp775 on April 3, 2006 at 5:57 pm

There were lights on in the lobby Saturday night, 3/31. Much of the ornamentation in the lobby is still intact. There appears to be some demo work going on, at least to remove damaged sections of plaster and/or non-original sheetrock walls; it didn’t appear that any of the ornamental plasterwork was being removed.

Broan
Broan on April 3, 2006 at 4:42 pm

The balcony was split in two, and the floor theater was seperated from the balcony with a horizontal floor from the balcony to the proscenium. Also, I don’t think this has been mentioned yest, but in 2003 there was consideration of putting senior apartments on the site. And as of 1994 it was a church called “Rest for the Weary Ministries”.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on April 3, 2006 at 4:06 pm

When and how did they tri-plex this theatre? Did they divide the theatre into three auditoriums? Or did they make two auditoriums for the 1st floor and a 3rd one out of the balcony.

Also, I beleive that Plitt and later Cineplex-Odeon owned/operated the Nortown.

stacyD
stacyD on March 7, 2006 at 7:57 pm

How sad that this beautiful old theater has fallen into disuse as a movie house. I grew up blocks away and spent every Saturday afternoon with my friends enjoying movies for 25 cents. We enjoyed playing in the huge lobby and on the grand staircase pretending it was our castle. Ah, those were the days. The interior was spectacular and will be forever remembered for the great times we had there in the early 60’s. The times and neighborhood have changed since those days, so it was inevitable the theater would go. A movie at the glorious Nortown and barbecue from Sally’s across the street was the best way to spend leisure time.