3518 S. Halsted Street,
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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.
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