Randolph Theater

14-16 West Randolph Street,
Chicago, IL 60601

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Randolph Theatre Lobby

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Randolph Theater opened December 23, 1918 after being delayed for months due to construction materials being in short supply due to World War I. It could seat 845, and was built for showing movies only, one of the earliest Loop houses built without a stage.

It was designed by the noted Chicago theater architect Henry L. Newhouse, who work also includes the Metropolitan, Peerless, Howard, and Atlantic Theatres in Chicago, among others.

The Randolph Theater, located on Randolph Street near State Street (near the Colonial [formerly Iroquois] Theatre—which was replaced by the Oriental Theater in 1925), was within walking distance of many of the larger Loop houses of its day (such as the State-Lake Theater, the Apollo [later United Artists] Theater, and the Woods Theater).

Part of the smaller Jones, Linick and Schaefer circuit, which also ran the popular Orpheum Theater and Rialto Theater elsewhere in the Loop, the Randolph Theater was not anywhere near as fancy or large as its many neighboring movie palaces.

Instead of an orchestra, it had a lone organist, and also did not have a very large staff. Still, because of its location, at one of the Loop’s busiest corners, and its policy of catering to those who could not make shows at sold out showings at other theaters, it was a success.

The Randolph Theater usually showed second-run features, often films that had played the major houses over a year earlier. It also leaned towards a male audience, playing mostly adventures, westerns or war films. In 1927 it was taken over by the Universal Pictures chain, who operated it into 1928.

The Randolph Theater closed in 1933, and was replaced a year later by the popular German restaurant, Eitel’s Old Heidelburg Inn (which had debuted at the 1933-34 World’s Fair in Chicago), with its famed old German-style facade which included a clock with figures that moved as a song played each quarter hour.

Later home to Ronny’s Steakhouse, the building was demolished in the late-1990’s and replaced with the Noble Fool Theatre (which retained the Old Heidelburg facade and restored it to close to its original appearance). Unfortunately, the Noble Fool, a live theater company, was not successful at its new home between the Oriental Theatre and a Border’s Bookstore and closed in early 2004. Argo Tea moved into the space after the Noble Fool vacated it.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on September 20, 2005 at 8:59 am

Main dining hall of Ronny’s Steakhouse was constructed in the Randolph’s auditorium. When I ate there in the late 90’s auditorium ceiling was still intact. All sorts of strange characters in there. Festive atmosphere in this restaurant, with colored lights and an entrance to some sort of night club at rear…a remainder of what Randolph street was in the 70’s.

SouthsideBoy on January 26, 2007 at 10:48 am

Bryan Kreft, please e-mail Nick Coston at , would like to talk to talk to you.

CHICTH74 on March 15, 2007 at 6:33 pm

In the book entitled IMAGES OF AMERICA CHICAGO ENTERTAINMENT BETWEEN THE WAR 1919-1939 by Jim and Wynette Edwards ISBN : 0738523305 published by Arcadis an imprint of Tempus Publishing Inc.
On page number 85 there is a very nice picture of the Randolph
The photo is courtesey of The Historical Society of America,Elmhurst,Illinois it is a picture of the marquee and it shows the whole buld.

Broan on September 22, 2007 at 9:34 am

Here is a view of the Heidelberg interior. The space is now occupied by an Argo Tea.

Broan on September 22, 2007 at 11:51 am

Here is the corrected link. That’s right, the facade is all that is left of the Heidelberg, which is somewhat ironic, as it was a new facade for the Randolph Theater, none of which still exists. The Argo Tea is in the former Noble Fool space.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on September 22, 2007 at 1:25 pm

Nice item B. That’s what Ronnie’s dining room looked like as well. Only:

1) Remove the fine light fixtures and replace them with plastic models

2) Remove the carpet and put in cheap tile floor

3) Get rid of the tables and linens and put in lunch room furniture

4) Turn the light level down by about half

5) Put an enclosed night club sort of VIP area at the top of the stairs in the rear

It sounds awful. But it was actually pretty cool in a seedy, 70’s, 42nd Street sort of way.

Randolph Street is definitely great today. But despite what some say, I don’t think it is better than it was in the 70’s and 80’s. I think it is just great in a different way now.

Broan on March 8, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Here is a 1926 view featuring the Randolph’s State Street marquee. In 1920, Jones, Linick, and Shaefer bought out a vacant site on state for a new second lobby cutting through to the Randolph.

davidplomin on October 1, 2013 at 9:49 pm

I worked at the Noble Fool Theater from its move there to the end. It’s a shame the theater couldn’t have made a go of it. It was a cozy main theater, with a smaller one down the hall and a cabaret bar in the basement. And haunted too. I heard strange music and singing one afternoon while locking up when we didn’t have a show that night. No one next store at the Oriental either that might have been rehearsing. Didn’t scare me, but I didn’t stick around to find out if more was coming. The foundation was not current, as they probably just tore down the previous building to build new. That foundation, visible in the crawl space was very old mismatched stonework. Solid, but could it still emanate vibrations from the past as well?

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