Mercury Theatre

3745 N. Southport Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60613

Unfavorite 4 people favorited this theater

Mercury Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened as the Blaine Theatre, a nickelodeon, in 1912, the theater later showed silent films until around 1920.

From 1920 until 1947, the former theater served as a carpet cleaning factory.

Purchased by the DeKoven family that same year, the building served a series of retail uses until 1994, when it was purchased by Michael Cullen and Joe Carlucci and transformed back into a theater, the Mercury Theatre, a 300-seat legitimate house, which opened in 1996 with “Pope Joan”.

The building now also houses two very popular restaurants, Cullen’s Bar & Grill and Strega Nona.

The Mercury Theatre is located just a few doors down from the landmark Music Box Theatre on trendy Southport Avenue, in the neighborhood of the same name.

Contributed by Ken Roe, Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

LouisRugani
LouisRugani on April 27, 2006 at 11:01 am

Just north of the theatre and across the street is the James Blaine Elementary School, and I wanted to point out the coincidence, (which probably isn’t coincidental at all).

Broan
Broan on April 29, 2006 at 11:55 pm

You’re right; it’s not. The Blaine school, named for politician James G. Blaine opened in 1893. The Blaine stayed in operation until the opening of the Music Box (which was originally to be called the New Blaine) in 1928

LouisRugani
LouisRugani on April 30, 2006 at 1:38 pm

Thank you, Brian. That’s valuable information, as most accounts I’ve read have the Blaine closing around 1920 and don’t mention the name connection to the Music Box.
Also, in a 2005 article on the Mercury, the Chicago Tribune misspelled the name as ‘Blane’.

It’s great to see Chicago reusing these smaller and long-forgotten neighborhood theatres.

LouisRugani
LouisRugani on February 21, 2007 at 8:55 pm

That happened two weeks before the Chicago Tribune announced the “New Blaine” Theatre would be built nearby, which of course turned out to be the Music Box. Who would have imagined that both theatres would still co-exist in the 21st Century, and under different names?

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on October 18, 2008 at 10:32 am

The Mercury has had some extended run live shows as of late. The Buddy Holly Story, Ron Hawking’s Sinatra Tribute, etc. (Urinetown I think was cancelled before it could open.)

That stretch of Southport has a quite active nightlife. There are taverns on either side of the Mercury. Take 5 and an Irish restaurant/tavern called Cullen’s. The latter is actually kind of partially incorporated in/next to the theatre.
To serve the theatre patrons as I remember. They may have a management deal or are/were part owners of the Mercury.

Much like the old Drury Lane on Pearson was to former neighboring nightclub Tamborine, musicians from the Mercury would often play at the neighboring bars on some off nights.
The Buddy Holly Story guys had their own offshoot band doing originals & some covers at Blue Bayou across the street. A buddy of mine ran karaoke at Blue Bayou, and they’d even show up for that after shows or gigs.

Bruce C.
Bruce C. on June 30, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Here’s one of my pictures of the Mercury from a year or two ago:

View link

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on July 12, 2010 at 7:55 pm

The Esthena Theatre was located at 3709 N. Southport. It was a liquor store for many years until it got torn down in 2000. It’s now a condo.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on July 17, 2010 at 12:06 am

Nice looking theatre and complex DarkRefrain.

jepperson1
jepperson1 on January 25, 2011 at 2:58 am

Hello Cinema Treasures! I represent the new ownership of the Mercury. The building, which includes the 290 seat Mercury Theater, Cullen’s Bar and Grill, and an as of yet unoccupied space (formerly Strega Nona/Take 5), was purchased by a group of investors in October of 2010, who named Walter Stearns, former artistic director of Porchlight Music Theater as Executive Director. The theater has sat dark for the past 18 months, after successful runs of The Screwtape Letters and Marks Gospel. The Mercury will soon return as a prime home for live theater in Chicago. Currently, minor renovations are underway and the theater should be re-opening in February 2011. Visit our website at www.mercurytheaterchicago.com for more information

HughJazz
HughJazz on March 10, 2012 at 10:28 pm

The liquor store on the site was Crown Liquors. My father, “Whitey” who managed the Music Box Theater from 1929 until his death in 1975, was friends with Frankie who delivered for Crown using only a special bicycle with a large basket in front and a large triangular kickstand. I never saw Frankie drive a car, but I was told he was pretty well-off financially.

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