Congress Theater

2135 N. Milwaukee Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60647

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Balaban & Katz Corp., Lubliner & Trinz, Publix Theaters Corporation

Firms: Fridstein & Company

Functions: Concerts, Live Performances, Special Events

Styles: Adam, Baroque, Italian Renaissance

Previous Names: Teatro Azteca, Vincente Fernandez Theatre, Cine Mexico

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News About This Theater

Congress Theater

A mix of architectural styles (including Adam and Italian Baroque), this theater has an elaborate large domed auditorium and is covered with decorations in stone, terra-cotta, and plaster. It remains remarkably intact, down to the original light fixtures and marble wainscoting.

The 2,904-seat Congress Theater was built for the Lubliner & Trinz chain. On its opening day, September 5, 1926, there were parades, band concerts, and a bathing beauty contest. The first movie shown at the Congress Theater was “Rolling Home”, a Reginald Denny comedy, as well as five Orpheum vaudeville acts. In November 1929, the Congress Theater was taken over by the Balaban & Katz chain.

In the 1970’s, the Congress Theater was renamed Teatro Azteca, and screened Spanish-language films. Movies continued to be shown through the 1980’s when it was known as the Vincente Fernandez Theatre. By the 1990’s, the theater hosted live Latin acts, boxing matches, and an occasional film.

In 2000, the theater was threatened by demolition (for proposed condominiums), but the neighborhood rallied to the its defence. On July 10, 2002, the Congress Theater was declared a Chicago City Landmark.

This splendid survivor of the movie palace era functioned as one of Chicago’s grandest concert venues, and was closed for refurbishment in 2013. In January 2018 the Congress Theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In early-2020 work on the renovation/restoration of the theatre was halted, but restarted in May 2021.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 79 comments)

DavidZornig on July 6, 2018 at 9:54 am

BobbyS, hop on over the Uptown’s page. Great news awaits…

In the meantime, here’s a current WBEZ piece on the Congress.

BobbyS on July 6, 2018 at 8:33 pm

I heard all about the Uptown and couldn’t be more thrilled..What amazes me so many people think it had clouds & stars in the ceiling… They are confused.

DavidZornig on September 24, 2018 at 3:43 pm

Congress development related article.

Trolleyguy on February 27, 2020 at 11:30 am

An update on that last story is not very positive:

DavidZornig on September 1, 2020 at 1:54 pm

Another update that is not very positive…

DavidZornig on November 30, 2020 at 8:02 am

Update on legal issues.

DavidZornig on May 25, 2021 at 8:04 am

Yet another update.

HowardBHaas on June 29, 2021 at 4:14 pm

that seems to be an update on an outdoor fountain.

DavidZornig on June 29, 2021 at 4:26 pm

Ha, right your are. Here is the real update on the update.

RickB on December 13, 2021 at 6:15 pm

Venue was renamed the Vicente Fernandez Theatre in the late ‘80s. Chicagopedia group on Facebook has ads from 1988 (Stand and Deliver in Spanish) and '89 (Leonard-Duran III bout on closed-circuit) billing it as such.

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