United Artists Theatre
45 W. Randolph Street,
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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.
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