Ramova Theater

3518 S. Halsted Street,
Chicago, IL 60609

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Ramova Theater

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The Ramova Theater opened in 1929 on S. Halsted Street at 35th Street, as a “sister” to the Music Box Theater in Lake View, which was opened that same year. The architect of the Ramova Theater was Meyer O. Nathan.

Like the smaller Music Box Theater, which seats about half as many as the 1,500-seat Ramova Theater, both were designed in Atmospheric style inside, their auditoriums built to resemble Spanish-courtyards. On the deep blue ceiling of the Ramova Theater, “stars” glittered before each movie, and through the archways along the side walls were scenes of the Spanish countryside. Like the Music Box’s lobby, the blue sky with stars motif also continued into the ceiling. Faux-marble and gilded plasterwork were also in abundance, even more so than at the Music Box Theater.

The highlight of the Ramova’s life came in 1940, when Charlie Chaplin had the Chicago premiere of his “The Great Dictator” at the Ramova Theater and Music Box Theater, since the Loop palaces which would normally host such events were uncomfortable with the sensitive subject matter of the film and wouldn’t play it on their screens.

By the 1950’s, the Ramova Theater was no longer a first run house, but began to show second-run features. In its last years, it was showing Spanish-language films, as the Bridgeport neighborhood had gone from solidly Irish and Lithuanian, when the Ramova Theater opened, to mostly Hispanic today.

The theater was closed around the mid-1980’s, and has since sat vacant, but very much intact; a reminder of the neighborhood’s past and a viable and eminently restorable venue for Bridgeport’s future.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 66 comments)

Broan
Broan on December 19, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Most photographers don’t care as long as they have credit, but if they complain their photos should be removed.

It wasn’t long ago that I was the junior member of THSA and itching to do something. I’m sure he’ll soon learn how to use that energy more productively. I did a lot of structured research and photography with that energy.

I know you can’t go into specifics, but can you speak generally about the ideas that IIT has publicly presented? It seems to me that the Ramova would be difficult as a 1200+ seat live venue (no stage, no parking, neighborhood not very dense with no nearby el, limited lobby space, large volume and low flat ceiling make for difficult acoustics, etc), but something more like the Biograph (hopefully with more of the original decoration replicated, unlike their generic interior) would be feasible. Sort of like the unrealized Dupage concept or the shrunken Paramount in Boston.

What about adaptive use as plan B? The Ramova could make a fine tribute to the Daley family if it were restored as a library branch, replacing the smaller one up the street, and that would be a good reason for the city to restore and renovate it.

Let me know if you’d rather I contact you privately.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on June 17, 2012 at 8:04 am

The photo gallery shows this place to be in much better condition than I would have thought. Hopefully a plan goes through one of these days. The cooling of the real estate market makes this less likely. But it also means the building will probably continue to stand.

rivest266
rivest266 on June 26, 2012 at 4:36 pm

This opened on August 21st, 1929. Small grand opening ad is in the photo section for this theatre.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on November 8, 2012 at 6:58 am

I recently photographed the Ramova Theatre. Check out the post at After the Final Curtain

Mister_Comics
Mister_Comics on January 5, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Since nobody has brought up any of this… The Ramova Theater had a parking lot down the block a little across the street. I believe at 35thPlace. To the north next to the theater was the Ramova grill which closed in 2012. It was mentioned on the Chicago news and papers and the theater was also mentioned. Above the grill in the same building I believe there were martial arts classes. And across the street from the theater was a hobby shop that I would go to often when I was a kid. It closed long ago. 1956 the Ramova was the 1st theater I ever was in. My mom took me to see Trapeze, a Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster movie. My dad didn’t want to go see it and my mom did, so she took me with her to see it. I can hardly remember the movie but after that I seen many movies there until around the 80’s. I have a lot of memories about the Ramova and the area. I hope someday they restore the old show.

RickB
RickB on January 17, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Shots of five endangered Chicago palaces—including this one—and a Roger Ebert essay. Chicago Magazine

chitownt51
chitownt51 on February 4, 2013 at 5:19 pm

the ramova theater was my second theater i wood go to when there was no seat’s at the Wallace theater but loved them both

projects
projects on November 27, 2013 at 10:11 am

I lived in the projects on 31st and halsted. we had good times going to the ramova to see dracula, werewolf, frankenstein. then all Bruce Lee movies. i was the youngest of 3. Admission for me was 25 cents and for my brother and sister it was 50 cents. then it went up 25 cents more. but the memories are still there. we would have fun with other kids we see from school.( Armour School). it’s sad to see the ramova in it’s present condition. there were other old buildings on halsted that should’ve been saved also.back in the day Mayor Daley would always pass by the projects and i would be playing by the alley,he would say hay kid i would run to his car he would give me tickets to the ringling brothers circus i would pass them out in the projects.

projects
projects on November 27, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Can someone tell me when the last showing was @the Ramova month/YR. I no longer live in Chicago it’s been years since I’ve seen Chicago. the last time I believe I was @ the Ramova was 1974.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on August 18, 2014 at 11:35 am

FYI. A candidate for 11th Ward Alderman is making her announcement tonight in front of the Ramova Theater.

http://sullivan11thward.com/event/maureen-sullivan-declares-candidacy/

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