Paradise Theater

231 N. Pulaski Road,
Chicago, IL 60624

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Paradise Th Chicago

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The Paradise Theater, which was built in the Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago, was billed as the world’s most beautiful theater. It was located on Crawford Avenue (now Pulaski Road) near Maypole Avenue. It is regarded as one of the finest designs by its architect, John Eberson. The sheer opulence and intricate craftsmanship that went into the theater made it a showpiece in itself. The Paradise Theater opened on September 14, 1928 with Clara Bow in “The Fleet’s In”.

Unfortunately, flaws in the design (blamed on the vast domed ceiling in the 3,612-seat auditorium) were exposed with the advent of talking pictures. Poor accoustics eventually cost the theater its attendance (movie-goers would eventually turn to the nearby Marks Brothers showplace, the 3,931-seat Marbro Theater) and it never recovered.

Unfortunately, in 1956, owners Balaban and Katz decided to demolish the theater and sell the land to a supermarket chain. The theater that was also built to stand forever almost lived up to that claim – what was to have been a six month demolition took two years!

Contributed by Jon Erickson, Cinema Treasures

Recent comments (view all 349 comments)

Tinseltoes on June 2, 2012 at 8:28 am

Here’s a full page of ads that were used for the original launching of the Paradise in 1928: archive

BobbyS on June 7, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Thanks Tinseltoes for the ads..Very very interesting to read.

rivest266 on June 26, 2012 at 4:03 am

Grand opening ad from September 14th, 1928 uploaded in the photo section.

Tinseltoes on September 13, 2013 at 6:33 am

Tomorrow (9/14) will mark the 85th anniversary of the grand opening of the Paradise, which is my favorite movie palace of any architectural style. God bless her, wherever her dusty remains have blown. She’s truly a Paradise Lost, and she can never be Regained except in memory and photos.

BobbyS on March 13, 2014 at 10:15 am

A few days ago the Chicago Tribune announced the 5 buildings that were endangered. It included the Jeffery theatre and the Guyon hotel. It stated the owner also owned the Paradise Ballroom. I bet he also owned the land that the Paradise Theatre was built on. Wasn’t B&K the third group that built the Paradise? They must have eventually bought the land because they sold it or maybe leased it to the ill-fated grocery store that replaced the beautiful building.

Scott on March 30, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Yes, here’s the story as I recall it. The Guyon family owned the land that the Paradise eventually was built on. In the early stages of the Paradise project there was a fight between Guyon and the Marks Brothers over who held the rights to name their theatre “Paradise.” Guyon won the lawsuit, which of course resulted in the Marks Brothers naming their theatre “Marbro.” Unfortunately for Guyon, however, the recent construction and opening of his hotel impeded his ability to fund the Paradise project, causing him to sell the Paradise to the Cooney Brothers. The Paradise project was also too much for the Cooney Brothers. They went bankrupt, subsequently selling the Paradise, which was only in the early stages of development, to Balaban & Katz. The bigger budget that B&K brought to the table allowed Eberson to improve his design. Obviously B&K were determined to squash the Marks Brothers, which they ultimately did. B&K purchased the Marbro around 1930 I believe. So the land the Paradise sat on went from Guyon to the Cooney Brothers to B&K, and then to the company that developed the grocery store.

BobbyS on March 31, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Thanks Scott, All this in only 26 years. WOW ! Didn’t anyone realize that the habits of the paying public would change? Didn’t anyone see how a new machine called television could change profits forever? It was a frenzy to see who could build a bigger more ornate movie palace. You would think B&K would have tried to buy out the Marks Bros. before they spent a dime or in this case millions to build the Paradise. I am glad they didn’t for I enjoyed both of them very very much and miss them both.

Scott on April 2, 2014 at 8:24 am

Bobby, maybe we’ll never know whether B&K tried to buy the Marbro. That would seem to have been the sensible move, since there was no way that the area could support two giant movie palaces along with all the smaller theatres. Even in the 1920s that wouldn’t have worked; at least not from my perspective. One of those theatres was destined to be a money loser, and it turned out to be the Paradise.

BobbyS on April 2, 2014 at 11:30 am

Scott,negotiations must have occurred between the two parties both businessmen with plenty of capital behind them and probably egos got in the way. Having the most beautiful movie palace with all the dimes & nickels rolling in was hard to pass up..It is still amazing to me with all the business savvy around no one could see the Great Depression around the corner. The endangered list I gave was Illinois. Just annouhnced yesterday the Chicago endangered top ten came out and the Uptown theatre is back on it…It stated the crumpling condition and the lack of potential investors. Sad..

Scott on April 3, 2014 at 4:18 am

Bobby, I saw the Chicago endangered list. I will be truly amazed if the Uptown is ever re-opened. I think its location really works against it.

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