De Luxe Theatre

1141 W. Wilson Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60640

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Deluxe Theater Handbill

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The De Luxe Theatre was built in 1912 — one of the earliest theatres in the once-fashionable Uptown neighborhood built specifically for motion pictures.

The De Luxe Theatre was built for the Gumbiner Brothers circuit and featured organist Fred Sosman on its large pipe organ, who had previously been the organist at the Auditorium Theatre on Michigan Avenue. It is said that Gloria Swanson, a Chicago-native, frequented the De Luxe Theatre when she lived in Uptown and made her earliest films at the nearby Essannay Studios.

One early visitor to the theatre remarked that “if the place fails at the pictures, it could readily be turned into a church”. For the first couple decades of its existence, it was one of the most popular movie houses in Uptown, until the opening of larger, much more extravagant palaces like the Uptown Theatre and Riviera Theatre which made the De Luxe Theatre as less desirable venue for movie-goers.

In 1938, the De Luxe Theatre was remodeled in a Streamline Moderne style to the plans of architect Mark D. Kalischer. It remained in operation into the 1960’s, though by then, the Uptown neighborhood had a dicey reputation. The De Luxe Theatre was demolished in 1972 and the site became part of Truman College.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft, Ray Martinez

Recent comments (view all 26 comments)

EdBrand on November 27, 2011 at 6:15 pm

My nuclear family, father, mother, two older brothers and 3 older sisters moved from Alabama to join other aunts and uncles in the Uptown area in the early 60s until late 67. My 2 older brothers married sisters from West VA. My sister, just older than I were very young and attended the De Luxe regularly, usually at midweek and the Uptown on weekends. I recall seeing many horror movies such as Creature from the Black Lagoon and alien movies. We lived around the corner at Montrose and Magnolia. I cannot add much more than what has been added except to say that the neighborhood was in decay the late 60s around the De Luxe with alcoholics on the Racine sidewalk drinking from paper bags and regular fights on Sunnyside and Racne involving “hillbillies” as we were referred. My father was usually one of those who were being arrested at one of the nearby bars. Around the back of the theatre, on Sunnyside, was two small stores- one was Pat’s but I can’t remember the other name. West of the De Luxe on Wilson and Magnolia was the A&P grocery where all the locals bought groceries. I think I remember buses on Montrose(along the side of Graceland cemetary)as being electric with cables.I now live in Orlando, Florida and have recently returned twice in 2008 and again 3 weeks ago. The neighborhood is really looking up with a large Target on Broadway and Sunnyside and the before-mentioned Starbuck’s On Wilson and Magnolia. The streets are filled with young students as well. The Mexican restaraunt next to the Uptown Theatre also serves good food. I really would like to see the Uptown refurbished to add to these changes. Sorry to stray from the De Luxe discussion so much. Does anyone remember the fire department opening the hydrants on Racine r the blizzard of 67?

EdBrand on November 30, 2011 at 10:16 am

A correction to earlier questions; The blizzard was actually the winter of 1966- my mother has pictures of magnolia street and the hydrants were opened in several locations around Uptown during the summers- neighborhood kids played in the spraying fountain of water. There is a picture of a “snippet” of the Deluxe online from the vantage point of the hotel across the street. Check the google map street level vantage point and you will notice the corner of the building on Clifton still has the same masonry stones as the hotel once did.

Tinseltoes on August 27, 2012 at 8:00 am

Modernization described in this 1938 trade article: Boxoffice

Tinseltoes on August 27, 2012 at 1:15 pm

And even the rest rooms in this later multi-page article: Boxoffice

KenC on August 28, 2012 at 10:29 pm

WOW, that 1938 pic sure is nice- and brings back memories! Only a few changes over 2-3 decades. When I started going to the De Luxe in 57-58 through the 60s,the poster cases were slightly different. Each one had 3 posters- at the top, a 28" by 22" poster, and from the middle of the case to the bottom, two- 14" by 36" posters(inserts). Also, at the time, the paint around the DE LUXE sign facing Wison Ave. (light green in color, as I recall),was peeling and faded. Still, pretty impressive for a non Balaban & Katz theatre. Thanks for sharing, Tinsel.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on September 7, 2012 at 8:15 am

Thanks for posting these. I’ve never seen good photos of the Deluxe before. It looks like the original design was really a dog.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 7, 2012 at 1:00 pm

The 1938 Boxoffice article Tinseltoes linked to back on August 27 says that the architect for the streamline modern remodeling of the De Luxe Theatre was Mark D. Kalischer.

EdBrand on July 2, 2013 at 8:57 am

For more, brighter pictures of the DeLuxe theatre from 1954 as it looked until closing go to pages 132 and 133:

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