Biograph Theater

2433 N. Lincoln Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60657

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Biograph Theater

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This Lincoln Park neighborhood landmark is probably best known by Chicagoans as the place where John Dillinger was shot and killed in 1934 after attending a screening of “Manhattan Melodrama” starring Clark Gable (allegedly the ghost of Dillinger has haunted the theater ever since).

During the 70s, the balcony was converted into two small additional screens. The original decor mostly lost, the historic Biograph 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 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 1930s.)

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 126 comments)

jwballer
jwballer on January 28, 2010 at 3:04 pm

A 2/7 Wurlitzer was installed in the theatre in 1914?

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on July 16, 2010 at 9:17 am

This theatre is listed under Loews-Cineplex,was it at one time?

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on July 16, 2010 at 9:25 am

It was a Loews-Cineplex theatre from 1998 until 1999. It became a Loews-Cineplex theatre after the Cineplex Odeon/Loews merger took effect in 1998; however, by orders from the Justice Department, Loews Cineplex had to sell a bunch of their theatres to avoid a monopoly, so the Biograph was sold to the newly formed, but short-lived Meridian Theatres. Other theatres that were sold were Water Tower, Burnham Plaza, Broadway Cinema, Old Orchard, Hyde Park, and Bricktown Square. These theatres would all go out of business within a couple of years.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on July 16, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Thanks Tim,much like when the Justice Department broke up Loews and MGM,thanks again for your reply.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on July 16, 2010 at 12:57 pm

By the way Tim I just read on the Gateway Theatre page that you are the projectionist there,I knew you had to be in the business by some of your posts.I used to work for Loews in Nashville years ago,wish I still did sometimes.Thanks again for your reply.

CraigSCummings
CraigSCummings on September 13, 2011 at 11:29 am

Does anyone remember attending the Biograph just before Larry Edwards took over? A somewhat elderly couple ran the theatre and presented a weekly change of double feature classic movies. Many were rare Fox films from the 30’s and 40’s. I have a program schedule somewhere buried away. “The vaults are opening” was used. The prints were all in very good condition and I would say most if not all HAD to be nitrate. One non-Fox movie I remember seeing during this time was “San Francisco”. There were others,too, however I can’t recall the titles. But, hey, it’s been a few years!

CraigSCummings
CraigSCummings on September 20, 2011 at 7:52 am

Okay… I’m going to answer my own question of 09/13/2011: The Biograph ran two separate classic programs. The Fox movies started 08/07/1971 with “Judge Priest” & “Sunny Side Up”. “7th Heaven”, Dantes Inferno", “Ritz Bros 3 Muskeeters”, “How Green Was My Valley”, “Hot Pepper”, “Quick Millions” “Hello Sister” were among others. Last Fox program “Sunrise” & “Me & My Gal” on 10/02/71. Then a break and on 10/30 major reissue of “Golddiggers of 1935” & “Footlight Parade” opening along with showing at the Clark Theatre. MGM movies started 11/06/70 and included “Good Earth”, “Singing In The Rain”, Meet Me In St. Louis", “American In Paris”, San Francisco" among others. Last program 12/26/71 “Tale Of Two Cities” & “Pride & Predjuce”.
In January 1972 there were three weeks of double feature Beatles movies that did exceptional business, then “Days Of Thrills & Laughter” & “L&H’s Laughing 20’s” Somewhat newer stuff followed, and I do not know how much longer the couple who ran the theatre and I had seen every week (as I attended every single program) continued operating the Biograph.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on January 1, 2012 at 6:09 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 6:14 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.

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