United Artists Theatre

45 W. Randolph Street,
Chicago, IL 60601

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United Artists

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Apollo Theatre was opened in 1921 as a legitimate playhouse in the Neo-Classical style by Chicago architectural firm of Holibard and Roche, better known for their office buildings (they also designed the massive Neo-Classical style Chicago City Hall and Cook County Building just around the corner from where the UA once stood on Randolph Street). The theatre was built for A.H. Woods, the showman whose self-named theatre sat on the opposite corner from the Apollo Theatre.

In 1927, Woods sold the Apollo Theatre to the United Artists Corporation. United Artists had architect Howard Crane, who earlier in the same year designed the United Artists Theatre in Los Angeles, remodel the Apollo Theatre, in Spanish Gothic style (its interior was similar to the Los Angeles UA Theatre). The Apollo Theatre became the United Artists Theatre (the Apollo name went to the another former legitmate venue-turned-movie house, the Olympic Theatre not far away on Randolph Street and Clark Street).

The auditorium’s ceiling featured a cove-lit dome, encircled by ten smaller portholes. The lobby had a slightly Middle Eastern flavor, complete with polychrome plasterwork, black marble walls, hand-painted tiles in the lounges, and a carpeting pattern based on one from a 19th Century Ottoman palace in Turkey.

The theatre was taken over by the Balaban & Katz chain in April 1929, which would soon operate the majority of the Loop’s movie houses. Balaban & Katz operated the United Artists Theatre into the 1960’s. Afterwards, B & K’s successor chains, ABC/Great States and then Plitt Theatres ran the United Artists. For its last couple years of operation, during the mid-to-late-1980’s, it was part of the Cineplex-Odeon chain.

By the 1960’s, much of the original decor was either gone or heavily remodeled. In late-1987, this once-attractive theater was shuttered and demolished two years later.

Not only was the United Artists Theatre razed, but by 1991, every structure on the block—including the Roosevelt Theatre around the corner on State Street, the late 19th century McCarthy and Unity Buildings, and various other buildings—except an Art Moderne 1930s-era Commonwealth Edison substation at the corner of Dearborn Street and Washington Street—was wiped away. The razing was in preparation for a huge office and retail complex to be designed by famed architect Helmut Jahn that never materialized. The site, called “Block 37”, remained vacant for almost twenty years. with several plans for its redevelopment having come and gone.

By 2012, the site is now occupied by the mostly vacant Block 37 Mall, and the studios of Channel 2, CBS' Chicago affiliate.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft, Ray Martinez

Recent comments (view all 126 comments)

chicagokid on November 21, 2011 at 10:54 am

The photo from btkrefft was taken in 1954. The film playing at the Oriental was “Woman’s World,” starring Clifton Webb, Lauren Bacall and several other prominent actors/actresses of the time.

CSWalczak on November 22, 2011 at 12:37 am

I checked the link I embedded in my comment of October 11, 2011 and it appears to be working.

The photo that shows “Middle of the Night” playing at the United Artists also shows that “Anatomy of a Murder” was playing at the Woods; then Mayor Richard J. Daley tried to ban the film’s showing within Chicago because of content some considered at the time to be taboo, but he and the then Chief of Police were overruled.

DavidZornig on November 22, 2011 at 7:58 am

Greetings CSWalczak. Your embedded link from October 11, 2011 still does not work for me.

CT Administrators have indicated that there is some specific manner in which links have to be embedded within posts, since the website revamp.

The link likely still works outside of CT, but there is no way to click on it within your CT post. It just appears as a jumbled sentence. It will not highlight when clicked on. I presume it cannot be added to the Photos section, because it is a link with more than one photo. And not a specific photo file or whatever.

According to CT, it is the manner in which it is embedded.

RickB on November 22, 2011 at 8:17 am

This should make the Oct 11 link clickable. When adding links to comments I generally copy and paste the sample line from the how to make links on Cinema Treasures page and replace the data. Although it should be possible to duplicate that style on the keyboard for some reason it doesn’t always seem to work for me.

DavidZornig on November 22, 2011 at 8:26 am

That did it, thanks!

chicagokid on February 29, 2012 at 6:31 pm

The photo by btkrefft clearly showed “Woman’s World” at the Oriental. “Anatomy of a Murder” was a 1959 release and was not in the photo about which I commented originally.

CSWalczak on February 29, 2012 at 10:44 pm

I was referring to the photo at the top of the page that is part of the photos gallery for this page, not any photo posted by bkrefft.

chicagomike47 on September 10, 2012 at 12:10 am

i saw the world premeire of NORTH BY NORTHWEST there, and got alfred hitchcocks’s autograph

rivest266 on March 5, 2014 at 7:54 pm

1927 ad in photo section.

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