14-16 West Randolph Street,
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The Randolph Theatre 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 theatre architect Henry L. Newhouse, who work also includes the Metropolitan Theatre, Peerless Theatre, Howard Theatre, and Atlantic Theatre in Chicago, among others.
The Randolph Theatre, located on Randolph Street near State Street (near the Colonial [formerly Iroquois] Theatre—which was replaced by the Oriental Theatre in 1925), was within walking distance of many of the larger Loop houses of its day (such as the State-Lake Theatre, the Apollo [later United Artists] Theatre, and the Woods Theatre).
Part of the smaller Jones, Linick and Schaefer circuit, which also ran the popular Orpheum Theatre and Rialto Theatre elsewhere in the Loop, the Randolph Theatre 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 theatres, it was a success.
The Randolph Theatre 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 Theatre 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.
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