Biograph Theater

2433 N. Lincoln Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60657

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Biograph Theatre, 1985.

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”. By 2017 it had two auditoriums, one seating 259, the other with 109 seats.

Contributed by Abigail Johns, Alan Van Landschoot, Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 136 comments)

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

Khnemu
Khnemu on March 11, 2018 at 7:14 pm

The Biograph contains two performance spaces; the 259-seat Začek-McVay Theater on the main floor, and upstairs, the 109-seat Richard Christiansen Theater. Both auditoriums along with the lobby space and a rehersal hall are also rented out for special events.

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on August 31, 2018 at 11:11 am

The FBI agents who shot John Dillenger coming out of the Biograph Theatre, were on tne roof of Lincoln Hall(then called Fullerton Theatre) across the street from the Biograph Theatre.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on August 31, 2018 at 12:05 pm

They may have scouted his movements from the roof, but it’s pretty well documented that agents shot him from street level. As he was shot in the back with a bullet exiting his eye.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on August 31, 2018 at 8:17 pm

I checked the newspaper movie section for July 22, 1934. The Fullerton Theatre is not listed. That’s because the building at 2424 N. Lincoln was an auto garage at the time. Here is a video clip in which this man mentions the address of the former movie theatre at 2424 N. Lincoln Avenue (that would later be reborn as a movie theatre; first called the Crest and then 3-Penny Cinema).

https://youtu.be/ymw4C7k754g

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on September 1, 2018 at 11:01 am

It says Fullerton Theatre on the Wikipedia page for Lincoln Hall.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on September 2, 2018 at 1:37 am

From the 2424 N. Lincoln Wikipedia page: “The building first opened as the Fullerton Theatre, a nickelodeon, in 1912. In 1915 it was converted into an auto garage. FBI agents took aim at John Dillinger from the roof of the building in 1934.[1]

It opened again as Crest Theater in 1938."

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