Lamar Theater

120 South Marion Street,
Oak Park, IL 60301

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Lamar Theater

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The Oak Park Theater opened in 1913, on what was then Wisconsin Street (now called Marion), which was once Oak Park’s entertainment district. Both the Warrington Opera House and the Playhouse Theatre were also on Wisconsin/Marion Street. It could seat over 1000, and featured both vaudeville acts and movies in its earliest years.

In 1919, its original owner, John Hodgson, collaborating with the Lubliner & Trinz chain, planned to tear down the six-year old theater and replace it with a massive hotel, theater and retail center, complete with a towering hotel and 5,000-plus seat theater, which would have been over twice the size of any of the largest of Chicago’s movie theaters at that time.

However, that grandiose plan fell through, and the Oak Park remained in operation, as a part of the Lubliner & Trinz circuit.

In 1930, it was remodeled in Art Deco style, and given a new name, the Lamar, for its proximity to the corner of Lake and Marion Streets. When the larger Lake Theatre opened not far away, on Lake Street in 1936, by then, that street had become the commercial center of the suburb, and the Lamar’s days of being Oak Park’s leading movie house were soon to end.

However, it remained in business for decades, only closing in the early 80s. It was torn down in 1988.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

GuyCesario
GuyCesario on October 30, 2003 at 11:02 am

The Lamar was the “grand old lady” of Oak Park Theaters. When I worked there in the early 1960’s (as well as the Lake Theater), it and the Lake Theater were both owned and operated by Essaness Theaters Corp. Saw many great films there.

barryr
barryr on February 8, 2006 at 5:50 pm

I have wonderful memories of the Lake and the Lamar, but the Lamar always seemed to play my favorites—“MASH,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Smokey and the Bandit,” and on and on. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this theater showed Indian films (don’t think they were called “Bollywood” yet) in the early 80’s.

GrandMogul
GrandMogul on February 7, 2007 at 12:16 pm

Ad in the Chicago Tribune, Friday, August 29, 1930 announced:

ESSANESS TALKIE THEATRES; A TRIPLE EVENT FOR CHICAGO! ATTEND THE OPOENING OF ONE OF THESE WONDER TALKIE THEATERS!

Davis (formerly Pershing); Byrd, at Madison at Cicero, Lamar (formerly Oak Park)—-Oak Park’s Intimate Talkie Theater! Today door open at 1:30 pm, Warner Baxter, “Arizona Kid”; musical comedy duo Shaw & Lee, Variety Acts, Living News Events.

bobbyh
bobbyh on June 7, 2007 at 7:46 pm

What memories the Lamar brings back! I worked there as an usher in the mid-70’s…a new movie had just come out named “Rocky”….we had it 16 weeks…and I can still remember every line from the film. We also wore red suit jackets with the name “Essaness Theaters” sewn on the breast pocket. It was very interesting to go backstage where the lights had to be thrown on and off manually on an old stage light board…and also go downstairs back there where the popcorn was stored in what used to be the dressing rooms for the vaudeville acts of the early days of the theatre. I miss you Lamar.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on September 10, 2007 at 7:02 pm

A Kimball theater organ size 2/10 was installed in the Oak Park Theater in 1913. In 1923, a new Kimball theater organ size 2/14 was installed.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on January 23, 2008 at 5:36 pm

This is a larger version of the photo at the top of this page and here is another angle.

Trolleyguy
Trolleyguy on November 29, 2011 at 8:11 pm

I wandered onto the rubble when the Lamar was being torn down. One thing I found was an empty 16mm film can for an Indian film. Interestingly enough, obviously the scenery hoisting equipment from live theater days was still in place in the old fly loft, so I was able to pick up 2 pulley wheels for my collection.

rivest266
rivest266 on June 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Two grand opening ads for this theatre has been uploaded in the photo section for this cinema.

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