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My Aunt Geri, a Jewish lady (the rest of the family was Catholic…don’t ask me!) used to tell us of growing up nearby and attending the Senate in the days when it was giving out dishes and what-have-you, and having occasional Bingo meetings before and after shows.
I have to take exception to Bryan’s comments, though. Saying that the Senate lost out against the Marbro and the Paradise can’t possibly be true.
For one thing, both of those theaters closed before the Senate did. (And were sadly demolished much sooner, for that matter.)
For another, we aren’t talking about some small David vs. the big Goliaths here: the Senate was HUGE (though admittedly not the biggest theater around).
Every neighborhood back then had its theaters. And every large community was its own neighborhood. People walked to the shows, so whichever were closest were the neighborhood shows.
At Madison and Crawford (admittedly, at that time, a monstrous mercantile area) there were the Marbro and the Paradise (as well as a few smaller shows).
But the Senate was a whole mile farther east, at Madison and Kedzie. It isn’t likely that the people at that end of Garfield Park were going to walk all the way west to go to those theaters. They went to the Senate (depending on what was playing, of course! We theater lovers tend to think only in terms of visiting theaters; real people were going to see the shows!).
And a mile farther east (at Madison and Western) were the 4-Star and the Imperial, both also good sized theaters.
Given that all three locations were thriving communities, I hardly see that the Marbro and Paradise were driving people away from the Senate (no more than the 4-Star and Imperial were).
If anything contributed to the demise of the Senate (or, for that matter, to a lot of other old theaters listed on here), I’d say it was the decline of the community (along with, of course, the usual reasons of television and new theater strategies supplanting the old monster theaters). Without going into the history (or trying in any way to offend any people that live there), those areas have been virtual ghost towns for years now…and only recently have been showing signs of life again (no theaters yet, though…and of course, we’ll never see the likes of the Paradise or the Senate again!).
After all, the Senate certainly outlived both of the palaces at Crawford, and I’m pretty sure outlived those at Western, as well.
It’s kind of silly to say that a theater died because of the influence of another theater a mile away that was torn down five years before.
Love theaters or not, I think the Senate made do a lot better than either the Marbro or Paradise did. Heck, the Alex, one of the small theaters at Madison and Crawford, outlived all of them.