Biograph Theater

2433 N. Lincoln Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60657

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Biograph Theatre, 1985.

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 130 comments)

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on January 1, 2012 at 10:14 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
DavidZornig on July 29, 2015 at 7:55 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.

http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2015/07/28/john-dillinger-returns-crown-point-opening-new-museum

CStefanic
CStefanic on September 26, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Can the main theatre at the Biograph still screen cinema?

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on January 10, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Two 1980 photos added, photo credit Kaci Steder‎.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on January 10, 2017 at 3:51 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
Broan on February 14, 2017 at 8:49 am

The Biograph opened September 5, 1914.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on August 7, 2017 at 8:46 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
DavidZornig on October 25, 2017 at 7:11 pm

2017 photo added, credit & courtesy of Chris Cullen.

djendrycki
djendrycki on December 3, 2017 at 1:04 pm

I have been a Dillinger buff since I was knee high. I am 60 now and am just as fascinated by his story as I was then. My interest started when my Uncle Fred, a former boxer who enjoyed hanging out with 1920’s gangsters, regaled me with his his personal Chicago gangland stories. The one that enthralled me the most were his stories about his playing poker with John Dillinger. My first visit to the Biograph Theater was in the early seventies. My dad took me to a screening of 1927’s ‘Wings’ with Clara Bow and Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers (I also had always loved silent movies). At that time the Biograph was privately owned by W.L. Durant, an old movie buff, and he would only screen classic films. The theater at that time was pretty run down. The famous marquee had been revamped as' The New Biograph' and was a faded mint green color. The former tavern next door was an optomitrist’s office and the National Tea store next to the alley was now just a Ma and Pa type neighborhood grocery. The building opposite that, across the alley, was still a Chop Suey restaurant. Inside the lobby of the Biograph greeting the patrons as they walked in, was a life size stand up cutout of John Dillinger brandishing a machine gun. There was also a small display on the wall of Dillinger photos and of the Biograph from that fateful night in 1934. The walls around the lobby were plaster board panels with huge images of Chicago’s number one TV news team at the time, Fahey Flynn and Joel Daley from ABC Channel 7 posing as 1920’s gangsters complete with guns, cigars and flashy getaway cars. All in all it looked pretty cheesy. After the movie, my father and I ate at the Seminary Restaurant, a favorite of Dillinger’s, just down the street. We also walked by the Biograph Barber Shop, where Dillinger had his last shave and haircut. Hanging out with my Dad and experiencing all that great history was a happy day I will never forget. David Jendrycki Chicago

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