Biograph Theater

2433 N. Lincoln Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60657

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Biograph Theatre exterior

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Biograph Theater was opened September 5, 1914. All 942 seats were on a single floor. This Lincoln Park neighborhood landmark is probably best known by Chicagoans as the place where John Dillinger was shot and killed on July 22, 1934 after attending a screening of “Manhattan Melodrama” starring Clark Gable (allegedly the ghost of Dillinger has haunted the theater ever since).

During the 1970’s, the second floor of the building was converted into two small additional screens. The original décor in the original main auditorium mostly lost, the historic Biograph Theater continued to show movies until 2001.

The theater reopened in 2002 under the Village Theatres chain, which operated it until September 2004, when it again closed.

The Biograph Theater was purchased by the legitimate Victory Gardens Theatre company in 2004. The interior has been entirely rebuilt, from a venue which could originally seat over 900 to 299 today (which is about 100 more seats than Victory Gardens' old space down the street, which will now be rented out to other area theater companies). The facade was repaired and cleaned and the marquee was rebuilt to resemble it’s original apperance. (The words “Victory Gardens” have replaced the word “Essaness” over the neon-lit Biograph name, Essaness being the chain that operated the movie house during the 1930’s.)

The Victory Gardens Theater at the Biograph was opened on September 28th, 2006, with Charles Smith’s drama, “Denmark”.

Contributed by Abigail Johns, Alan Van Landschoot, Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 129 comments)

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on January 1, 2012 at 8:09 am

My wife and I went here last night to see the radio version of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. By “radio version”, I mean the actors acted it out like they were doing an old-time live radio broadcast.

I hadn’t been here since its movie theater days. Everything has changed so much. “It’s a Wonderful Life” was performed in the smaller theater upstairs (was this the old balcony for the cinema?). When the main theatre downstairs is not in use, as was the case last night, it’s completely closed off from the lobby and there’s little evidence of it being a theatre.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on January 1, 2012 at 8:14 am

The Biograph never had a balcony. Upstairs used to be a variety of things. I was told it was a pool hall, dance class space, political gathering hole, lots of things. In 1983, the owner of the Biograph converted the upstairs space into 2 small auditoriums. He left the original 1914 auditorium alone. The original auditorium never got divided when it was a movie theatre.

DavidZornig on July 29, 2015 at 5:55 pm

WTTW piece about a Dillinger Museum in Crown Point Indiana. There are pics of a mini replica marquee in the link at the bottom. Copy and paste to view.

CStefanic on September 26, 2016 at 10:49 am

Can the main theatre at the Biograph still screen cinema?

DavidZornig on January 10, 2017 at 1:48 pm

Two 1980 photos added, photo credit Kaci Steder‎.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on January 10, 2017 at 1:51 pm

CStefanic. The Biograph has screened some digital presentations in its main theatre. A digital projector was temporarily installed. I’m sure anything can be screened there as long as the equipment is installed, as well as a screen.

Broan on February 14, 2017 at 6:49 am

The Biograph opened September 5, 1914.

DavidZornig on August 7, 2017 at 6:46 pm

Two 2008/`09 filming of “Public Enemies” photos added, source unknown. Also a painting called Biograph-Death Of John Dillinger by Andy Thomas added.

DavidZornig on October 25, 2017 at 5:11 pm

2017 photo added, credit & courtesy of Chris Cullen.

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