Belmont Theater

1635 W. Belmont Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60657

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Belmont Bowl

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The Belmont Theater was one of the more popular North Side Chicago movie houses, as it was surrounded by a bustling retail hub and located close to public transportation near the intersection of Belmont, Ashland, and Lincoln Avenues in the Lakeview neighborhood.

The Belmont Theater opened in 1925 for the Lubliner & Trinz circuit and was taken over by the Balaban & Katz chain in May of 1930. The Belmont Theater was designed by W.W. Ahlschlager, who was also the architect of the Roxy Theatre and Beacon Theatre in New York City. This 3,200-plus seat palace was equipped with a Wurlitzer 4 manual, 20 ranks organ which was opened by organist Preston H. Sellers Jr. Originally a venue for both live entertainment and movies, it later turned to movies only.

In the mid-1960’s, the movie house was converted into a bowling alley, which it remained until closing in the mid-1980’s.

In 1996, with the revival of the Lakeview neighborhood in full swing, a mixed condominium and retail complex was built on the site of the Belmont Theater, which was demolished except for its Spanish Baroque style terra-cotta facade.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

jwgregory on March 22, 2007 at 12:18 am

The Chicago Belmont Theater maybe lost, but the theater organ that was in this wonderful movie house still lives on. I am a theater organ fan and have done some research on the organ that was in this theater. This theater was home to one of Wurlitzer’s Publix 1 style theater organs, or more commonly know as a ‘Crawford Special’ Wurlitzer in the theater organ world. The organ style was designed by the famous theater organ artist, Jesse Crawford, and consisted of four manuals, and 20 ranks of pipes. This organ style was one of the few common 4 manual Wurlitzer styles to make it out of the early 20th Century alive, as many 4 or even 3 manual original styles have few, or none at all, organs that exist today. The theater organs that played in these theater houses are just as rare as these theaters are. We must do everything that we can to make sure these two great things stay around for a long time to come! Anyhow, I am proud to say that to my knowledge and understanding that the organ that was in this theater still exists, and remains unaltered! In June of 1963 the organ was purchased, and moved to Manitowoc, Wisconsin into a restaurant call ‘Castle North’ which was designed to house this theater organ. The restaurant went under, and the building and organ was sold to a man by the name of Christopher Feiereisen who last known ran a pipe organ business. He uses the building for storage and to run his business. You can go here to and see pictures of the restaurant and the organ. The organ still plays and Mr. Feireisen is still welcome to visitors to come see the Belmont Wurlitzer. Well folks here you have it, history on the Belmont’s theater organ. I strongly suggest that you stop by and see the organ, more so if you remember going to this theater. Hearing such instruments is quickly becoming a thing of the past, as are these theaters.

MKuecker on April 22, 2008 at 1:31 am

AH HA!! I knew that building used to be a theatre! I could tell by the look of it. I can feel the vibes of a movie palace :)
My friend told me “You got theatres on the brain! Anyone can see that was just a decorative old hotel…” HAHA He owes me an apology. :)

DavidZornig on September 7, 2008 at 4:36 am

In the late `80’s, the one time sign for an old club called The Phoenix, sat propped up in the doorway of the shuttered Belmont Theatre.
The Phoenix was a giant bar/club on Broadway between Diversey & Surf. Where Marshall’s and all that is now.
It was a deviously large building once you were indoors. It had bars that connected to other bars in endless rooms. And an even larger auditorium like room in the very back. They had different bands in different rooms.
Often Reggae was a standard in one of them. I was there as late as 1982 as I recall. If anyone knows if this was possibly originally a theatre itself, please pass it along. It was on the West side of Broadway, next to a gas station at Surf & Broadway. Across from Round Records, Ranatti’s & once a Ponderosa where the Walgreens is at Diversey & Broadway.(I remember that all burned in the winter of 1976. Years before the film “Backdraft”, the fire dept. hoses encased a VW in ice, that was illegally parked in front of the hydrant)

There was also a bar called Gaffers on the East side of Broadway, that had windows that opened to the street. They were one of the first bars to utilize sodium vapor lights on their own facade. So it was a visible bright orange from a block away. The city had only then recently converted to SV lamps for the city street lamps. From the old white-ish/green-ish ones. Critics claimed the new SV street lamps caused the trees to continuously grow even at night.

Broan on September 7, 2008 at 5:18 pm

This is getting off-topic, and probably better suited for the Century page, but the Phoenix was known as the Paradise Chicago after 1982, and was said to hold over 1500 dancers at 25,000 sq ft. Before the phoenix closed, it was Country & Western for a while. It had opened in 1975. Before that, it was Ski’s Lounge, Thumbs Up, and Poppy’s, and after the Paradise it closed from 1985-87, became the Phoenix again (ironically enough), Paramore, Chaplin’s Comedy Club (a 600 seat comedy club for about a month in 1991), and Noa Noa. The big room was a converted garage. In 1996 it was all torn down for the large retail and parking garage on the site; initially 16 General Cinemas screens were in this plan, but neighborhood opposition killed it.

DavidZornig on April 14, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Reactivate Notification Status.

rivest266 on June 25, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Grand opening ad uploaded here.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on April 10, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Wow, what a great photo on the homepage of the Belmont Theater. It looks like the marquee (obviously a later modernized one) remained into its era as a bowling alley.

On another note, how was the theater converted into a bowling alley?

thejimdoherty on February 23, 2014 at 9:25 pm

I went to Belmont Bowl a couple of times when I was in grade school. If I recall correctly, the bowling alley was not on the main floor.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on August 9, 2016 at 4:10 am

Great photos of the Belmont here:

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