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 345 comments)

Scott
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
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
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.

Scott
Scott on June 21, 2014 at 4:14 pm

I have uploaded an interesting photo of the Paradise from 1941. Shows the exterior with a good view of the box office. If you enlarge it you’ll see pretty good detail.

Scott
Scott on June 21, 2014 at 4:28 pm

I have also added two close ups. One of the box office and one of the box office with a poster case. I lightened up the contrast on the box office to make it more visible. It’s the only good image I’ve seen of it.

BobbyS
BobbyS on July 2, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Wonderful pictures Scott !!!! I forgot how detailed the box office was. You would think somebody would have saved it for their home or back yard instead of the wrecking ball. I have a few questions. If the recent marquee is pictured and is from 1941, the original vertical from 1929 is still there. What year did the last vertical appear? In the Crawford theater posting, someone thought the year was 1947. If that is true, the Paradise had the original vertical still being used in that year. Means the newer block lettering only lived about 9 years. Is that possible? The Marbro got the new signage also in 1941, but both signs. Where was the free parking lot? I have almost the same photo in color at night. I will try and scan & post it if I can. I wonder how long “2 BIG HITS” remained on the marquee. Was this a cost-cutting measure or maybe the films were not that interesting.

Scott
Scott on July 3, 2014 at 11:19 am

Bobby, I was really excited about this photo since it’s the first one I’ve seen that really shows the box office in any detail. I suspect that the original, and larger, marquee cast a shadow that made the box office hard to see. In addition, this photo appears to have been taken a little closer to the building. Incidentally, that was me who theorized that the Crawford Theatre photo is from 1947. And you are correct, the original Paradise vertical is visible in the Crawford photo, so it was replaced sometime between 1947 and 1956. Probably closer to 1947, but I really don’t know. The later vertical is the only one I remember seeing as a youth. I wondered about the “free parking” as well. I know there were some surface lots in the area, but I’m not sure which one the sign refers to. The bit about the “2 BIG HITS ON EVERY PROGRAM” was there for a while, as I’ve seen it in a photo taken a year or two before the one I uploaded was taken. Since by this time the Marbro had become the theater of choice in the neighborhood, B&K probably booked lesser quality features at the Paradise. I also think that the lettering right under the marquee that says “IT’S SHOW TIME WITH THE PICK OF THE PICTURES“ remained there for some time as well.

I hope you can post your photo. Would certainly like to see it.

BobbyS
BobbyS on July 4, 2014 at 8:40 am

I WILL TRY SOON. ITS A GREAT PICTURE. I LOVED WALKING FROM ALL THE PINK NEON & ALL THE WHITE BULBS AT THE MARBRO TO ALL THE ORGANGE NEON & WHITE BULBS AT THE PARADISE..A LITTLE OF LAS VEGAS IN GARFIELD PARK !!

BobbyS
BobbyS on July 9, 2014 at 9:48 pm

I did it Scott. Posted photo at night. Would have liked to made it larger. Wish someone had a night view of the Marbro..

Scott
Scott on July 11, 2014 at 9:24 am

Bobby, thanks for posting that. Interesting that they went with orange lighting. Would loved to have seen the original marquee in color.

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