Belmont Theater

1635 W. Belmont Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60657

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Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on December 3, 2017 at 10:04 pm

In answer to Paul’s question from a few years ago: I saw a picture of the bowling alley interior some years ago. I think it was on two levels, because the photo I saw showed lanes at balcony level underneath the old theater ceiling. I would assume they left the balcony structure in place because it would have been a huge undertaking to remove the trusses and all that cement.

Here’s a comment on a bowling history web site that backs up the two level concept:

They may have installed drop ceilings in later years, because one of the comments in this thread makes it sound like they “discovered” parts of the theater interior during demolition.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on August 8, 2016 at 10:10 pm

Great photos of the Belmont here:

thejimdoherty on February 23, 2014 at 3:25 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.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on April 10, 2013 at 2:27 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?

rivest266 on June 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Grand opening ad uploaded here.

DavidZornig on April 14, 2009 at 3:02 pm

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Broan on September 7, 2008 at 11:18 am

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 September 6, 2008 at 10:36 pm

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.

MKuecker on April 21, 2008 at 7:31 pm

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. :)

jwgregory on March 21, 2007 at 7:18 pm

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.

Broan on November 27, 2006 at 7:34 pm

The scaffolding just recently came down after over a year. Looks good. Still missing some Terra Cotta.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on November 27, 2006 at 7:24 pm

I remember seeing a photo of the interior as a bowling alley in the Theatre Historical Society of America archives in Elmhurst.

Broan on June 17, 2006 at 11:13 am

Here is a profile from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency’s HAARGIS system. It includes a small picture as the Belmont Bowl.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on January 25, 2006 at 10:44 am

Bryan’s post above is a link to Midwest Wrecking’s website. And I gotta admit, it is a cool site! Many of the photos of their demolition sites have brief histories of the buildings.

On another note, my high school, Gordon Tech, had a bowling team. They played at Waveland Bowl and Belmont Bowl.

William on April 20, 2005 at 10:38 am

The Belmont Theatre became an Orphuem Circuit Theatre August 1st, 1927.

richardg on January 22, 2004 at 9:19 pm

The exterior and the lobby of the Belmont were quite impressive. Memory, however, tells me the auditorium was not so ornate. Once you entered the foyer, directly in front you, stood a beautiful, overwhelming, marble staircase leading to the balcony. When your eyes finally reached the top of the stairs, you saw (besides the main floor candy counter) another huge candy counter. I was very impressed and what kid wouldn’t be. Only the Uptown could match this number of candy counters. The Belmont’s gigantic balcony had such depth that if you were seated in the last few rows of the theatre, the top of the screen was cut off. The bottom of the balcony, which was in reality the ceiling above the patrons seated underneath it, had frequently spaced recessed lights. These remained on during the movie and were very annoying. The beautiful marble staircase remained intact after the conversion to a bowling alley. One can comprehend the vastness of the Belmont once it’s known there were three floors of bowling alleys.