Biltmore Theatre

2046 W. Division Street,
Chicago, IL 60622

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Cinemaven
Cinemaven on April 22, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Another theatre that should have been saved, Instead of demolished for “progress”.

lincman
lincman on December 21, 2011 at 1:21 am

i was the headusher partime after HS…GOING TO AUSTIN..xhanged that marquee many time…when b & k ran the biltmore….this was 1954 just after cineMascope became part of movies…we were 3rd run house after big movies played downtown and then 1 week in our theatre…i had to make lobby boards…and 1 aheets for displays..james salice was our manager. Niles and ivar and me were the typical uniformed ushers in those days…it was easy and pleasant work…i remember the other shops in retail part of bldg….doctor…jewelry store are remember and little dorothy in box office who knew everyone who passed…this was 1954 after all….

roadside57
roadside57 on June 24, 2011 at 11:23 am

Division Street was an exciting place to be in the 1950’s when I was a kid growing up nearby and, for a nine-year-old, there was no more exciting spot on Division than the Biltmore. This was especially true during the brutally-hot summer of 1955, in the aftermath of the Richard Carpenter-Patrolman Clarence Kerr shootout in the theater.

I can remember my mother coming home late one night from Wednesday evening church services in the Loop, explaining that the Division-Van Buren bus she was on had been re-routed at Damen, and that an enormous crowd and many police cars had blocked Division Street between Damen and Hoyne in front of the Biltmore.

As we sat on our front porch a block away from the theater, we could hear the crowd noise and occasional sirens, until two cops in a patrol car stopped in front and asked my parents if they had seen anyone running through the neighborhood, before suggesting that we go back inside for our own safety.

The next day seemed quiet except for the sound of a police helicopter overhead. That evening, as I watched CBS news on Channel 2 with my mother, I felt proud to see Douglas Edwards lead off with a story on the shootout and manhunt.

At some point in his report, Edwards intoned the words “…in a run-down movie theater, in the slums just west of Chicago’s Loop.” Although I knew this wasn’t exactly a compliment, I was too young to take offense to the casual insult. Instead, it was a thrill for me to see the Biltmore on national TV.

That night, Carpenter was found hiding-out with hostages in a flat on Crystal Street, and I can remember the sound of tear gas rounds being fired to force him out, along with the noise of a crowd ready to tear the cop-killer apart as he was hustled to a waiting police van.

A couple of weeks later, Jack Webb in “Pete Kelly’s Blues” was the appropriate first-run feature at the Biltmore. As we entered the lobby, I was looking for stray bullet holes until I glanced down at the carpet just outside the show, and saw what appeared to be bloodstains.

Fortunately, Patrolman Kerr recovered from his wounds. Carpenter, of course, paid with his life several years laterr executed for the murder of a Chicago detective that took place earlier in that unforgettable summer of 1955.

earlier in that unforgettable summer of ‘55.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on April 14, 2009 at 9:17 am

Thanks Ken Mc, that’s how I remember it. But much worse for wear by 1991.
That marquee was by then supported by multiple 2x4’s. They were bowing under the weight. And surprisingly no fence up.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on April 11, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Here is a 1982 photo when the theater was showing Spanish language films:
http://tinyurl.com/dlkgs3

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on November 26, 2008 at 12:59 pm

I just remembered why I was over by The Alameda for extended periods of time `91. I helped a friend rebuild some of the neon at the Rainbo Room.
Added some vandal proofing as well.
We parked the van by the Alameda often.
Those multiple 2x4 props under the marquee were scar-y.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on November 7, 2008 at 5:12 pm

I too remember the state of disrepair the Alameda was in maybe late 1990 or `91. There were actually some crudely made 2x4 supports underneath the marquee to hold it up. Something so iffy that you’d think even the 70 Bus would shake it loose.

I didn’t realize it was incorporated into such a wide building. That truly could have been a flagship renovation for that neighborhood back then.
It could have been like the Oak Theatre which was renovated, then oddly torn down anyway.
That section of Wicker Park could still be a bit dicey at night then.

On the N/W corner of Division & Damen, was a Duks hotdog/burger stand that oddly also sold beer. Under the window counters it had tall stools that were chained to the floor. The chains were just long enough for the stool to not be swung around, or through the windows.
The chains were just long enough to not reach the windows.

I believe there is a mini mall there now with condos above. The parking lot for the mall is where the Alameda lobby was.

efive
efive on July 15, 2008 at 5:43 am

I remember this theater in a crumbling state in the fall of 1989, a few years before Wicker Park began its resurgence. I was barely able to determine that it had most recently been known as the Alameda Theater. I believe the theater may be visible in a couple of scenes from the 1983/84 movie “Bad Boys,” with Sean Penn. If it had been maintained better for only 10 more years or so, perhaps it could have evolved into a hip Wicker Park entertainment venue.

henryb
henryb on November 22, 2007 at 2:17 pm

I remember being at the Biltmore Theater the day Carpenter shot Patrolman Kerr. I was seated next to Patrolman Kerr and his wife. The Patrolman excused himself and I got up to let him pass. He returned a few minutes later and I remember hearing him whisper something to his wife. Again he got up, but this time he seated himself directly behind me. I heard him and another man talking behind me—which annoyed me because I was trying to pay attention to the movie. Both men got up. A shot “RANG OUT” behind my head. I dropped to the floor, waited a moment and then crawled up the aisle. Looking back, I saw Carpenter kneeling with his gun drawn. He fired 2-3 more shots into the dark theater. I left the Biltmore with “bells ringing in my head.” Five minuted later I returned to the theater and saw a crowd of people at the foot of the balcony stairs. Patrolman Kerr was lying on his back in a blood stained shirt. I am now 77 years old and I can remember this experience as vividly as if it had occurred yesterday. Henry B.

GrandMogul
GrandMogul on March 13, 2007 at 8:01 am

CHICAGO AMERICAN ADVERTISEMENT for Saturday, January 15, 1921 reads:
Biltmore Theatre, Division street—-at Robey Street; “Best of the Newest,” GRAND OPENING TONIGHT, Wallace Reid in “The Charm School,” novelties Leavitt’s Famous Concert Orchestra.

For all its strange history, it still is sad that this beautiful theatre was torn down—-and needlessly so …


GrandMogul
GrandMogul on February 1, 2007 at 6:54 am

The following ad must’ve been placed to announce that the Biltmore had gone “talkie”:

Ad in Chicago Tribune, Friday, August 1, 1930:

Publix Greater Talkie Theaters, an event of great importance for the West Side! Be among the tremendous throngs who will see the magnificent splendor of this perfect talking picture theater! Biltmore Theater, Division near Damen. Opens Today, at 4 pm; opening program, Paramount’s thrilling mystery drama, “The Return of Dr. Fum Manchu, with Warner Oland, Jean Arthur and Neil Hamilton

GrandMogul
GrandMogul on February 1, 2007 at 6:06 am

Note: Please see under Calo theatre for another famed police-shoot-out that occured in October, 1954 (less than a year before the Carpenter gunplay). What can not be answered clearly is why in Chicago so many prominent shoot-outs are in or near movie theatres!

GrandMogul
GrandMogul on January 31, 2007 at 6:30 am

News Item

Chicago American, Thursday, August 18, 1955, p. 1, c. 5:

KILLER ESCAPES TRAP
CARPENTER ‘WOUNDED’ IN MOVIE GUN FIGHT

More than 250 policemen searched a mile-square Northwest Side area today for Richard Carpenter after he seriously wounded a rookie patrolman and eluded a police trap.

Carpenter, 26, who had been sought since Monday night as the slayer of Detective William J. Murphy, 34, in the Roosevelt rd. subway station, was believed to have been wounded in a gun battle in the Biltmore Theater, 2046 Division st., with Patrolman Clarence Kerr, 26.


NEWS ITEM:

Chicago American, Thursday, August 18, 1955, p. 4, c. 1:

TERROR IN DARK TOLD

How it feels to be sitting between a killer and a policeman shooting it out in a darkened theater was told today by Mrs. Florence Novak, 44.

Mrs. Novak, of 1452 N. Ashland av., was in the Biltmore Theater last night with ther husband, Edward, and their son, Wayne, 11, when the gun battle between Richard Carpenter and Policeman Clarence Kerr began. Mrs. Novak told the Chicago American: “If you have never felt the breeze of bullets whizzing past your head, you won’t know the terror we went through.”

THREE FEET AWAY
Mrs. Novak said she was seated three feet from Carpenter when he started firing his revolver at Kerr, who was on the opposite side of the Novaks.
_________________ [new item]
WIFE’S PLEA IN VAIN

“I tried to stop him but he said he had to go in.” With these words Mrs. Marion Kerr, 24, described how her policeman husband, Clarence, 25, re-entered the Biltmore Theater and was shot by a man believed to be Richard Carpenter, accused slayer of a detective.

… Outside her husband’s room at St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital, Mrs. Kerr told a Chicago American reporter she and her husband had gone to the theater to see a double feature, “Road to Denver” and “Call Me Lucky.”


[Note: John Payne starred in “Denver,” and Mickey Rooney starred in “Lucky.]


PHOTO and caption, Chicago Daily News, Thursday, August 18, 1955, p. 4, c. 1:

Copter searces rooftops in vicinity of Biltmore theater for Ricahrd Carpenter, 26, killer of Detective William J. Murphy. The Navy loaned the helicopter to the police kThursday in its hunt for Carpenter after he had wounded Policeman Richard Kerr in a gun duel in the Biltmore theater.


[Note: Marqee of theater displayed the following: Cinemascope Stereophonic Sound, Cool Comfort.]

GrandMogul
GrandMogul on January 31, 2007 at 6:30 am

News Item

Chicago American, Thursday, August 18, 1955, p. 1, c. 5:

KILLER ESCAPES TRAP
CARPENTER ‘WOUNDED’ IN MOVIE GUN FIGHT

More than 250 policemen searched a mile-square Northwest Side area today for Richard Carpenter after he seriously wounded a rookie patrolman and eluded a police trap.

Carpenter, 26, who had been sought since Monday night as the slayer of Detective William J. Murphy, 34, in the Roosevelt rd. subway station, was believed to have been wounded in a gun battle in the Biltmore Theater, 2046 Division st., with Patrolman Clarence Kerr, 26.


NEWS ITEM:

Chicago American, Thursday, August 18, 1955, p. 4, c. 1:

TERROR IN DARK TOLD

How it feels to be sitting between a killer and a policeman shooting it out in a darkened theater was told today by Mrs. Florence Novak, 44.

Mrs. Novak, of 1452 N. Ashland av., was in the Biltmore Theater last night with ther husband, Edward, and their son, Wayne, 11, when the gun battle between Richard Carpenter and Policeman Clarence Kerr began. Mrs. Novak told the Chicago American: “If you have never felt the breeze of bullets whizzing past your head, you won’t know the terror we went through.”

THREE FEET AWAY
Mrs. Novak said she was seated three feet from Carpenter when he started firing his revolver at Kerr, who was on the opposite side of the Novaks.
_________________ [new item]
WIFE’S PLEA IN VAIN

“I tried to stop him but he said he had to go in.” With these words Mrs. Marion Kerr, 24, described how her policeman husband, Clarence, 25, re-entered the Biltmore Theater and was shot by a man believed to be Richard Carpenter, accused slayer of a detective.

… Outside her husband’s room at St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital, Mrs. Kerr told a Chicago American reporter she and her husband had gone to the theater to see a double feature, “Road to Denver” and “Call Me Lucky.”


[Note: John Payne starred in “Denver,” and Mickey Rooney starred in “Lucky.]


PHOTO and caption, Chicago Daily News, Thursday, August 18, 1955, p. 4, c. 1:

Copter searces rooftops in vicinity of Biltmore theater for Ricahrd Carpenter, 26, killer of Detective William J. Murphy. The Navy loaned the helicopter to the police kThursday in its hunt for Carpenter after he had wounded Policeman Richard Kerr in a gun duel in the Biltmore theater.


[Note: Marqee of theater displayed the following: Cinemascope Stereophonic Sound, Cool Comfort.]

GrandMogul
GrandMogul on January 31, 2007 at 6:06 am

It is hard to believe now, but the comfortable obsurity that the beautiful Biltmore had was so rudely shattered in August, 1955. Soon the entire city of Chicago would know the Biltmore—-as one of the most spectacular police shoot-outs occurred within that same theatre. It is so sad they tore it down. Such a treasure. Now, read further:

NEWS ITEM:

Chicago Sun-Times, Thursday, August 18, 1955, p. 1, c. l (headline):

POLICEMAN SHOT IN MOVIE
BLAME HUNTED COP KILLER

A policeman was shot in a West Side movie by a man believed to be Richard Carpenter, the accused slayer of Det. William J. Murphy.

The latest victim is Patrolman Clarence Kerr, shot once in the right side of the chest Wednesday night in the Biltmore Theater at 2046 W. Division.

The gunman ran from the theater and disappeared down an alley between Crystal and Division near Damen. He was accompanied by another man.

GFeret
GFeret on January 5, 2007 at 6:05 am

An (certifiably) odd BILTMORE recollection I’ve maintained is that it was the DARKEST (least lit) film auditorium around when I was there in the late ‘50s, for DARBY O'GILL & THE LITTLE PEOPLE. 'Course, there’s only so dark an (interior room or) auditorium can possibly be, so…..

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on September 18, 2006 at 11:32 am

The Biltmore was awfully messed up in the last years it stood empty. The building was literally crumbling onto the sidewalk. That raised section above the marquee was nothing but a metal frame. It is surprising that they did not put up a fence.

Broan
Broan on June 17, 2006 at 6:45 am

Here is a profile from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency’s HAARGIS system. It includes a small picture.

KenC
KenC on November 8, 2005 at 4:26 pm

In “IMAGES of AMERICA- PUERTO RICAN CHICAGO” by Wilfredo Cruz, there is a pic of the San Juan theatre- circa 1970- on page 36.

BarbaraZDick
BarbaraZDick on January 23, 2005 at 11:10 pm

One of my earliest memories of the movies was of going to the Biltmore on Saturday afternoon with my mother and brother. This was in 1951 or 1952 and there was a drugstore across the street (on the corner of Leavitt and Division) with great sundaes and sodas. A movie and a sundae! What great memories.