Uptown Theatre

4816 North Broadway,
Chicago, IL 60640

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Jayne1955
Jayne1955 on December 22, 2007 at 5:56 pm

I could just see something funky like an anime convention running in the Uptown. That would be a perfect fit. A Harry Potter convention would have gone over well in the old castle, too. There are all sorts of possibilities for the place besides films and plays. They could have another theatre conclave and use it as a base.

I was at the Chicago in the early 80’s when Lillian Gish brought some of her films and gave a talk on her career, and they played the films and used the Chicago Theatre organ. That kind of thing would be cool there, too. Some kind of annual theatre history program.

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on December 21, 2007 at 7:56 am

The area around Loew’s 175th has improved in the last ten years. Most people seemed surprised when attending this theatre for the first time. Cablevision isn’t the only company out there, AEG is another company presenting concerts in theatres across the U.S. and they are in the expansion mode at the moment. AEG will be running the huge Midland in Kansas City after renovations take place. AEG also runs the new 7000 seat Nokia near Downtown LA next to the Staples Center. The strength of the Uptown is its size but it will take the City of Chicago to get it up and running and interest somebody like AEG. I think people should be pointing out the positive when talking about the Uptown as a concert venue rather than the negative. Most movie palace restorations across the U.S. were very difficult to get off the ground but a clear vision and leadership make it happen. The Uptown is the largest not restored movie palace in North America.brucec

oldjoe
oldjoe on December 18, 2007 at 3:00 am

there ia demand the venues of this size, but at the right price, a company that is obviously expanding its real estate holdings by leasing the chicago and has a huge bankroll, balked at the price…..the city has make the business opportunity interesting to save the uptown – the city “could” , but they did not ….and the uptown’s best chance at survival to date slipped thru chicago’s fingers.

the loews 175 is selling out, but many first time patrons have been surprised at the state of the neighborhood ….lets keep our fingers crossed and wish the 175 luck, added police protection on show nights would be a big plus in keeping this venue filled. word of mouth stories could damage sales …this also differs from mst other theatres that it functions full time as a church, if the venue dark for six weeks – no biggie, it is not necessary to fill 150 dates on the calender , i assume the promoter is paying a rental fee for each event

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on December 5, 2007 at 10:30 am

I think people should focus on the viability of a mid size concert venue in the 3rd largest city in the U.S. The Nokia a 7000 seat venue in LA was built at a cost of over 100 Million in a City that has many theatres. The Nokia was built near central downtown which was a depressed area a decade ago. A billion dollars has been spent over a period of years to bring back this area. The Nokia which opened recently is booked solid. Remember L.A. is less centralized than Chicago and many have to drive a great distance to get there. Majority of music acts cannot fill arena’s seating 18,000 but midsize concert venues from 2500 to 7000 seats. Radio City Music Hall is booked solid most of the year with mucical acts that wouldn’t fill Madison Square Garden. Radio City with nearly 6000 seats is the largest theatre venue in NYC and the Uptown with nearly 4400 seats is the largest in Chicago. Cablevision seeing the demand for midsize concert venues increase purchased the Beacon in NYC which seats nearly 2600 displacing the booker in the Beacon who is now invlovled with the 3300 seat former Loew’s 175th Street which is selling out on a regular basis. Cablevision was interested in the Uptown becuase it sat 4400 seats but decided on the Chicago Theatre with 3600 seats becuase of the location and the theatre was already in good condition. The North Loop wasn’t in good shape until the restoration of the Palace,Oriental and the new Goodman. The Uptown area is not that far from the Loop and will revive within the next 10 years as the area improves but the Uptown theatre cannot wait that long without some intervention. The City could make the Uptown area an improvement zone which would attract federal dollars and help the entire area. The City could invest in parking in the Uptown area which would attract investment and spend some seed money to get the Uptown Theatre up and running. I think with a clear plan both the Uptown area and the Uptown Theatre would become viable again.It has to become a combination of public and private to make it happen. Keep in mind that there is a demand for a theatre the size of the Uptown or Cablevision wouldn’t have looked at the theatre in the first place. There is a big difference between the cost of making the Uptown operatinal along with cosmetic improvements and full restoration. Many former movie palaces were made operational and ran years of live performances before full restoration occured. We are very lucky the Uptown is still with us becuase it probably would have been demolished had the Uptown area been a hot investment zone. The decline of the Uptown area helped close the Uptown theatre and at the same time help save it.brucec

Jayne1955
Jayne1955 on December 3, 2007 at 9:43 am

The problem is, no matter how many people think it’s worth saving, by the time they quit arguing about HOW to do it, the place will be rubble.

oldjoe
oldjoe on December 1, 2007 at 6:05 am

i am not trying to side track with numbers but clarify …dozens of times on this post people wishing that private sector would save this theater. As jayne said, a company took a good hard look and spent 100’s of 1000’s studing the site. at 90 million, a 4500 seat theater (rounding) making $10 profit per seat after all labor and operational costs and would have to sell out 2,000 shows to recoup costs. if they booked 150 shows a year, it would be 13 years to recoup investment …. this is without calculating interest on loans, or the fact that 150 sell out concerts for 13 years in a row is a very rosy picture. If the city is interested in revitalizing its own neighborhoods and developing more tax revenue , it has to help invest in itself by making development by the private sector a sound investment

Broan
Broan on November 29, 2007 at 8:54 pm

Here is a great series of recent shots at the Uptown

Jayne1955
Jayne1955 on November 29, 2007 at 10:03 am

I heard, and granted, it was just something I heard, that the New York company that runs Radio City Music Hall and has brought many people into the Chicago Theatre with the Rockettes' Christmas show took a long hard look at the Uptown before deciding that the neighborhood and the condition of the theatre’s interior were cost prohibitive. But I love the Uptown dearly and still continue to hold out hope for the place. It has infinite possibilities and faces infinite impossibilities at the same time. I would love to see the theatre be part of that neighborhood turning around and becoming one again the thriving area that it used to be along time ago.

It has

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on November 28, 2007 at 9:05 pm

Scott, I wish we had a National Trust Lottery like in the U.K. where the money goes toward restoring National Landmarks. The Uptown is on many lists of endangered Landmarks in the U.S. The Uptown is the largest unrestored movie palace in North America. It would have been cheaper had the Uptown been stabalized long ago. The Fox-Oakland which is currently under restoration sat empty for almost 40 years. The Fox restoration and the Charter School which is being built around the Fox is the Keystone to revive the Uptown area of Downtown Oakland. The Fox restoration is being funded by the City and Historic Grants from both the State and Federal and private grants from companies such as American Express. Im sure the Uptown would qualify for many Historic Grants once a clear plan is in place. The Uptown needs a clear business plan which I believe is concerts thats why Cablevision was interested.Chicago don’t let the Uptown slip away she is an Historic Treasure looking for some TLC. The 3400 seat Fox one of the largest ever built on the West Coast was saved at an Auction by Mr and Mrs Dulucchi for $300,000 back in the 1970’s to save Fox for future generations. The family held the theatre in trust until the city bought it in the 1990’s with the intention of one day restoring the Fox. The day has come and the Fox will reopen next year following restoration as a home for concerts.I hope the same thing happens to the Uptown.brucec

Jayne1955
Jayne1955 on November 27, 2007 at 8:16 pm

I think there is definitely widespread discontent about taxation coming out of Chicago. But I’m no expert, either. My mother left because she literally could not afford to live there anymore.

I found my Theatre Historical Society booklet that featured the Uptown and was looking through it. I wanted to cry or pound the walls. I coudn’t make up my mind which.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on November 27, 2007 at 10:54 am

I’m with you Bruce.

I respect your right to an opinion Scott. But I don’t see where you are coming from, and I don’t think I am going to.

Taxation within reasonable limits is fine by me as long as the money does some good for our community. Federal taxes have been lower since Bush became President. If you look at a chart of state income tax rates, the 3% flat tax in Illinois is nowhere near the top of the scale. I confess that I don’t know much about city taxation. But I don’t get the feeling like there is widespread discontent coming out of Chicago.

Come back when someone introduces a proposal that would take 75% of my yearly compensation and give it to the government. Then I think there will be something to talk about.

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on November 27, 2007 at 9:20 am

Most cities provide money and tax credits interested in reviving a depressed area. The City should look to building a major parking garage in the area to help the Uptown area as a whole and not just the Uptown Theatre. Every major Downtown in the United States has used tax dollars to help revive its historic core. The Times Square Improvement District was created to help revive the midtown area of Manhattan which started with funds to restore the Victory Theatre and low interest loan and tax credits to restore the New Amsterdam theatre on 42nd Street. Midtown has been booming ever since after many failed attempts in the 70’s and 80’s. It took a combination of State,City and private funding to get the ball rolling. Chicago spent money helping revive the theatre district in the North Loop with the Chicago,Oriental,Palace and Goodman Theatres. This was a combination of Public and Private funds and this helped improve the entire Loop. Private companies are very nervous about investing in a depressed area without some help. The Uptown is one of the largest remaining historic theatres without a clear future. Most remaining theatres the size of the Uptown have been restored. The only way I see a future for the Uptown is a combination of City,State and Private funding. It would have been easier to restore the Uptown in the 1980’s than it is today. The Uptown is not just any theatre it is the largest historic movie palace ever built in Chicago and is at risk of being lost if money isn’t spent to stabalize and at least get the theatre operational in the near future. I think if the theatre is made operational and parking in the area is improved more companies would be interested in investing and running the Uptown.The fact that Cablevision was interested shows you the potential of the Uptown.brucec

Jayne1955
Jayne1955 on November 21, 2007 at 5:57 am

Well, that probably counts as one of the few with verticals, considering how many there used to be. The Aragon IS amazing. I used to teach at St. Thomas of Canterbury school down the street, and I used to show the kids pictures of the Aragon, Riviera and the Uptown from their heydays as part of my lessons on the community. (My uncle worked at the Riviera when it was a movie theatre in the early 50’s and had some cool pictures.) If they tried to tear down the Uptown, I’d bet the old girl would put up a fight. Breaking up that huge lobby floor would e difficult and probably cost a fortune right there.

BartHalleman
BartHalleman on November 20, 2007 at 8:18 pm

I agree with the city staying out of the way.

Jayne1955
Jayne1955 on November 20, 2007 at 6:58 pm

I worked there in the 70’s. They even had a few concerts there. It was funny to see people coming in stoned for a concert, looking around at the theatre going, “Wow, man!” This theatre was a gem. At that time the murals were still visible in the old nursery area. The main problem, if I remember correctly WAS the lack of parking. With the Nortown gone, it’s one of the last remaining theatres with a vertical sign, is it not? It deserves a chance.
Jayne1955

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on November 20, 2007 at 3:04 pm

What do you propose as an alternative, more appropriate use of tax dollars, and how does funding projects which benefit the community constitute giving up our freedom?

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on November 19, 2007 at 11:41 am

Whether or not it is up to the City is a matter of debate. But I think all Bruce is saying is that a strong showing from them would make a big difference.

It’s kind of silly to complain about tax dollars. Our tax dollars ideally are put to use on projects that improve and maintain quality of life for us, the taxpayers. I think it can certainly be argued that the Uptown falls into that category, and most definitely a sports stadium. How many thousands of people enjoy going to the new Soldier Field every football season? If you feel differently Scott, prepare your arguments and head for City Hall. But I suggest that your energy is better invested elsewhere.

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on November 19, 2007 at 9:47 am

Lets not get sidetracked with a dollar amount. Restoration costs can be highly inflated when many other items such as a parking garage is added. The Pantages in Hollywood cost 12 Million to restore and that was work done only to the theatre. When people talk about restoring the Uptown they should talk about the theatre. It is up to the City to improve parking in the area not the potential buyer. A realistic dollar amount should be discussed about stabalizing the theatre and getting the Uptown operational.The Uptown building is a theatre building and not attatched to an office building like many theatres. I would like to hear a realistic dollar amount to get the Uptown operational and a dollar amount for full restoration just for the theatre. The huge Fox in Oakland is currently under restoration but a bulk of the restoration funds is going toward building a Charter School around the theatre.Reading about the Fox you would think that all this money is being spent on the theatre when only 30 per cent is going to restore the theatre itself.We shouldn’t scare potential buyers about the cost it should be a realistic dollar amount. Full restoration doesn’t have to happen in the beginning it could be done over a period of time. The focus of the Uptown should be to get it stabilized and operational with some cosmetic work done. I think Cablevision would have been more interested if the theatre had at least been operational.brucec

oldjoe
oldjoe on November 18, 2007 at 7:59 am

the restoration number talked about was 90 million – not 40 million this including providing parking to patrons. the city must offer tax breaks for any potential buyer to get serious about making the uptown a viable project

BartHalleman
BartHalleman on November 8, 2007 at 7:40 pm

I agree I feel if the City can be involved with the Chicago. What is stopping the restoration of the Uptown. Maybe it could be a good form of income when the Olympics come to Chicago?

andygarner
andygarner on November 8, 2007 at 2:23 pm

So am I, Lifes too short, Bruces argument makes sound commercial sense(unlike some of the previous well intentioned but dreamers schemes for the Uptown) the building has a future, and CAN be used commercially again, so its over to The City to open up the coffers and start the ball rolling to get the theatre into an operating condition.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on November 8, 2007 at 2:12 pm

I am impressed Bruce. That is by far the most intelligent argument I have ever seen supporting the notion that the Uptown remains viable as a theatre.

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on November 8, 2007 at 9:41 am

The city of Chicago needs to put a little money into the Uptown to interest a potential buyer such as Cablevision. The Uptown is the perfect size of theatre for concerts looking for a midsize venue.The city should offer a major tax credit for a potential buyer. The city needs to stabilize the building and spend a little money to get it in operating shape and then a potential buyer might be interested as Cablevision was. I think the biggest problem Cablevision had was the distance from the Loop because the theatre would have been a cheap buy then antoher 40 million in restoration. Cablevison spent 70 Million restoring Radio City and is currently restoring the Beacon in New York. The midsize concert venue is exploding across the US that why the 7100 seat Nokia was built in LA. The Uptown is located in an improving neigherhood and it one of the largest theatres standing in the US. The Loew’s 175th St in NYC with 3300 seats has become a very hot midsize Venue in NYC with many sold out concerts. Just think the Uptown seats 1000 more seats than the 175th Street located in the 3rd largest City in the US. I would conctact the concert booker of the 175Th Street who will be in direct competition with the smaller Beacon in NYC as someone who could compete with Cablevison in Chicago. The potential is there but money must be spent to restore the Uptown and Im sure it would get plenty of concert bookings, since its larger than the Chicago Theatre. The city of Chicago must take the lead and spend some money to open this theatre.brucec

DonFoshey
DonFoshey on November 7, 2007 at 1:11 pm

Joanne,
Thanks for the quick response. I’ll write you at the new email address.
DonF

CompassRose
CompassRose on November 7, 2007 at 1:06 pm

Hi DonF,

This is Joanne at CompassRose.com. We’ve moved our office and upgraded our servers/e-mail hosting this last month. I’m sorry if we lost your e-mail. You can contact me at with any problems.

Thanks and sorry for any delay.

Joanne