Oakland Square Theater

3947 S. Drexel Boulevard,
Chicago, IL 60653

Unfavorite No one has favorited this theater yet

1989 Press Photo (Source Unknown) of Chicago Police & Federal Agents Raid On The El Rukn Headquarters.

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Oakland Square was opened on March 4, 1916, designed by Henry L. Newhouse for the Ascher Brothers circuit. In 1931 this theater was one of several in Chicago taken over by Warner Brothers Circuit Management Inc., later Stanley-Warner. In the mid-1960’s, the theater became part of the new Brotman & Sherman chain, initially mostly made up of former Warner theaters.

By the 1970’s, both the surrounding neighborhood and the theater itself fell into serious decline, and the Oakland Square Theatre closed not long afterwards. It became a hangout for gangs and illegal activities, and neighborhood leaders demanded the city of Chicago condemn the long-vacant building and have it razed, which finally occurred in 1990.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

Broan
Broan on December 6, 2005 at 10:04 pm

It apparently was rather innovative when the project was announced; it was noted to contain “no wall seats” (boxes, I presume), held extra-wide seats, and was apparently both the city’s largest all-movie theater at the time, and “the first theater over 1,000 seats without a stage”. Chicago Tribune, July 30, 1915.

Broan
Broan on January 29, 2006 at 10:00 pm

There’s a photo in this sunday’s (1/29/06) Tribune Magazine of the theatre while the El Rukn gang controlled it. Pretty lovely building.

RickB
RickB on October 22, 2009 at 9:43 am

According to this blog post a spacious private residence has been built on the Oakland Square site.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on January 31, 2011 at 11:32 am

Inside the auditorum while it was under gang control:

View link

rivest266
rivest266 on June 25, 2012 at 9:24 pm

March 4, 1916 grand opening ad posted here.

oakenwald
oakenwald on May 11, 2015 at 3:28 pm

I remember going to this elegant little theater when I was a child, back in the early ‘40s. We lived at 3702 Lake Park Avenue, and my parents would give my older brother (11 years old) money for our tickets, and he would run ahead to buy them before the prices changed. Oakland Square itself was a fascinating place to me then.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on May 24, 2015 at 2:40 pm

After closing as the Oakland Square, the theater was known for a while as the Afro-Arts.

Photo of it as the Afro-Arts in this article:

http://never-the-same.org/interviews/phil-cohran/

The opening description for this theater also needs to be amended. This was far more than a hangout for gang members. As the “El Rukn Fort” it was on the evening news frequently in the 1980’s. Documentary here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lg_SHvTxfds

The El Rukn leader attempted to make a terrorism deal with Libya and ended up locked in Supermax somewhere.

As negative as it all is, this is a large chapter in Chicago’s history.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater