Colony Theater

3208 W. 59th Street,
Chicago, IL 60629

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Colony Theater auditorium (stage view) in 1984.

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Located in the Marquette Park neighborhood of Chicago on 59th Street at Kedzie Avenue, the Colony Theater originally opened in 1926 after a year-long construction for the Ascher Brothers circuit.

The firm which designed the theater was Lowenberg & Lowenberg, in Italian Renaissance style, complete with cream-colored terra cotta decor on its red-brick facade and a row of arched windows over the main entrance.

The Colony not only featured movies in its early years, but live entertainment as well. However, it later moved to a film-only format, and remained so through the 70s. During the late 70s and into the 80s, the Colony was used for rock concerts. Later in the 80s, it was briefly used for religious stage shows. In the early 90s, the theater housed a flea market for a short time, and by the latter part of that decade, the Colony was used for storage.

Since then, the theater has been vacant. It did very briefly come to life for a few days in the late 90s when the former CBS series, “Early Edition”, which filmed on location in Chicago, used the Colony’s lobby and exterior for a scene.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 63 comments)

Edward Jurich
Edward Jurich on September 27, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Since Hollywood is going all video and won’t be sending film prints soon means a major investment in video projection. Also, as far as restoring, when it was owned by Stern & Stern they completely demolished the deco on both sides of the stage where the organ pipe chambers were and did a sloppy flat plaster job. They covered it with a big gold curtain on both sides of the stage that became an extension of the stage curtain. I grew up in this neighborhood and saw many movies at that theater. I also have done booth restoration work and I know that a theater that size will require some major bucks to get going. The last time I was in Chicago it looked in pretty good shape on the outside but the condition of the inside could be a mess. If the roof has been leaking there could be some major plaster damage. It would be interesting if someone could get inside to just see what the condition is.

Broan on September 27, 2011 at 5:35 pm

It looks mostly intact in this 1984 photo – – was the removed plaster just black areas?

Edward Jurich
Edward Jurich on September 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm

In the picture of the 1984 auditorium, it shows two box-like grills on each side of the stage. That must have been added later possibly for ventilation or something. If you blow up the picture you will see some fancy plasterwork high above that curves down and ends. Originally that fancy plasterwork continued down and comprised the organ chamber front that extended out from the wall. It was quite beautiful, this link of another theater gives a general idea of how they did those theater organ chamber grills I kinda had the run of the Hiway, Marquette and Colony from working during high school and continued to do some work over the years re-bulbing auditoriums and such. I was there when they started ripping out that fancy plasterwork and was a little upset how they were destroying the architecture just to make it look more modern. There used to be murals on the Colony auditorium walls which they had painted over when they painted all three theater auditoriums a dark ugly green. On the subject of the neighborhood, There were gangs even back in the 60’s. My sister still lives near 55th and Pulaski and last year I wandered around the Colony and it’s not that bad.

BillA518 on October 15, 2011 at 8:42 am

“Later in the 80s, it was briefly used for religious stage shows.” Actually, it was about 5 months in 1988 (Feb-Jun). I worked there with several of the high school students that I was mentoring at the time. We did a couple shows per week (Wed & Sat, I think) It was basically vaudeville with a gentle Christian message. Trying to get open was pure Hell because the neighborhood fought us every step of the way – they remembered the mayhem caused by the live rock concerts in the late-70s/early-80s and didn’t want a repeat. At the time, the area was so-so – good during the day, marginal at night. My students and I usually ate at Gertie’s ice cream or the McDonalds a block North on Kedzie. There was a little diner on the opposite corner that we called ‘the greasy spoon’ but that was grossly unfair because the food and the service were always good. We got access to the building on the last day of January ‘88. It was 9 degrees colder inside the building than outside. We spent weeks replacing light bulbs, repairing the light board, getting the fire sprinkler system up & running, setting up the house sound system, restoring an old follow spot that had been left behind by one of the rock bands ('Jinx’) and a million other things. The caretaker’s name was Mike. He lived in the building. ‘Mikey’ had been there since ‘79. I know because he told us the film that was playing when he started working there was 'Alien’…and that locking up at 1 AM after watching the movie 4 times was the scariest moment of his life. I went back with a couple of the kids about 10 years later. The area had deteriorated substantially.but Mikey was still there. While we were in Gertie’s, someone broke into my car. Haven’t been back since.

films2 on November 26, 2011 at 3:29 pm

This theater looks to be a sound building after looking at the pictures posted. Are the seats still there?

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on November 26, 2011 at 9:04 pm

No, the main floor seats were taken out years ago. I’m not sure about the balcony.

Broan on March 19, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Tinseltoes, I think that must be the Drake theater, I see no other Ascher theaters opening 1925-1926 and the pictured theater has no balcony.

elkayo56 on August 2, 2013 at 5:10 am

I saw “it’s a mad world” and “fall of the roman empire” there and used to go to a soda fountain next door to it. It should be restored. Wonderful memories.

Marbro1893 on April 15, 2014 at 10:10 am

The currect owner has kept this theater in great condition and is just waiting for a serious person with the capital $450-$500,000 to get the building in shape along with $500,000 + in reserve to insure it could stay open.

Broan on April 15, 2014 at 10:26 am

If Thalia Hall can finally come back, maybe the Colony can too.

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