Nortown Theater

6320 N. Western Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60659

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Showing 176 - 200 of 233 comments

mp775 on June 14, 2006 at 4:00 pm

Depite the selling off of a lot of the ornamentation, it looks like the Nortown had definite potential. The upstairs is in much better shape that I expected, if it hasn’t degraded significantly in the last two years.

CinemarkFan on June 14, 2006 at 3:12 pm

Any new word on what’s happening with this theater? If nothing happens within 3 years, I’ll see what I can do.

Broan on June 14, 2006 at 2:03 pm

I think it must have been the church that ruined it. An earlier commenter said thewy sold off a lot of decor too, right

Nortown on June 14, 2006 at 10:58 am

Hello all:
Interesting Jerry that you saw Star Wars at the Nortown. I was an usher at the time. I had just started working there a week before Star Wars started. I recall that the movie being shown was “Rollercoaster” which was in Sensurround. We had those big black ugly speakers in the auditorium. By the way, we had Star Wars for about half a year. It started the summer of 1977. The first show started at 12:00 noon going through a midnight last showing. We actually had some showings that were sold out, even with the balcony open. I worked at the Nortown for over seven years, up until the time that it was tripled. Eventually I became a relief manager for Plitt Theatres, rotating between the Nortown, the Gateway, and Varsity (in Evanston)Theatres. The pictures that are posted of the current state of the Nortown break my heart. While I was an usher I painted the main floor lobby walls with a glaze paint. You can see the walls on some of the earlier posted images of the lobby. By the way, in these recently posted images of the current state of the Nortown you will see light blue painted ceilings. These are not original. It seems that somebody has painted over the beautiful ceiling murals that were on the second level. More heartbreak for me.

jvasilatos on June 14, 2006 at 9:50 am

My blood is boiling >:–(

I think the last show I saw there was “Die Hard” after it had been split into three theaters. “Temple of Doom” before that.



Broan on June 14, 2006 at 9:41 am

Here are four photosets from late 2004. These are what Bryan Krefft referenced in the third post on this page. These most fully document the current state of the Nortown. Proceed with caution.

jvasilatos on June 14, 2006 at 6:42 am

I wrote a script based on my experiences exploring the Granada and Uptown theaters as a teenager after they closed down and also from the memories I had seeing movies as a kid in a place as grand as the Nortown:

I was Dave Prowse’s (Darth Vader) liason during a convention appearance he was doing in Chicago in 1995 and I drove him past the Nortown telling him it’s where I saw “Star Wars” for the first time and how it was such an influence on me wanting to become a filmmaker.

My grandmother used to live in the neighborhood and I remember how much fun it was for my brother and I to stay over night there and see movies at the Nortown when my dad came by to get us after work at the also demolished Bell and Howell that used to be over on McCormick. And visit the camera store to buy Super 8 movie shorts of the films we saw there, or spend time at the old hobby shop kitty corner on Western and Devon and also buy toys at Cut Rate around the corner.

So many memories, it breaks my heart how much this neighborhood has changed and how it’s wven worse that it’s lost the Nortown that was so much a part of it’s character.

Jerry Vasilatos

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 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 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 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 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 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 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

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 on April 5, 2006 at 1:23 am

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

Broan on April 5, 2006 at 12:42 am

Okay, here they are.
View link

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 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 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 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 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.