Fine Arts Theater
410 S. Michigan Avenue,
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The Studebaker Building opened in 1885, a massive Romanesque style building between the Auditorium Building and Theatre and the old Art Institute of Chicago (which moved to its present location across Michigan Avenue in 1893; the old Art Institute building was razed in 1929 and replaced a year later with the Chicago Club Building). The Studebaker Building housed showrooms for the carriage company (which later manufactured autos) until 1898 when it was converted into the Fine Arts Building as a school and performance venue for musicians and artists and offices for publishers and architects. In 1917, the legitimate Studebaker Theatre was built on the ground floor of the building, the name still inscribed on the facade.
In 1933, the Studebaker Theater was renamed the World Playhouse and later began to show films, mostly foreign, while it continued to also feature plays on its stage as well.
However, by the 1950’s, the World Playhouse was a movie house only, and its legitimate days were over. By the 1960’s, it was screening adult films, and closed for a while in the 1970’s after being renamed for a short time the Studebaker Theater.
The theater was reopened as the Fine Arts Theatre in 1982 with two screens. Some of its Beaux-Arts style decor remained intact, though a bit worse for the wear. In the mid-to-late-1980’s, the Fine Arts became a quad. The Fine Arts was known as Chicago’s premier art and foreign film venue for much of that decade and into the 1990’s, along with the Music Box Theatre.
However, by the mid-to-late 1990’s, the Fine Arts Theater had clearly seen better days. Newer and larger art film houses, such as Landmark’s Century Centre in the Lake View neighborhood, and the Gene Siskel Film Center on State Street in the Loop, had replaced the Fine Arts in popularity and quality in the art film genre.
In its last days, it was no longer even showing just art films, but commercial features, as well. The last film on its marquee was “Red Planet” when it closed in late-2000.
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