Mercury Theatre

3745 N. Southport Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60613

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Mercury Theatre

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

From 1920 until 1947, the former theatre 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 theatre, 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. It was closed on March 16, 2020 due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. It was announced that it would be closed permanently at the end of June 2020.

Contributed by Ken Roe, Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

Broan
Broan on April 29, 2006 at 3:55 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 5:38 am

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 12:55 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 2:32 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.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on July 12, 2010 at 11:55 am

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 16, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Nice looking theatre and complex DarkRefrain.

jepperson1
jepperson1 on January 24, 2011 at 6:58 pm

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 2:28 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.

hdtv267
hdtv267 on April 4, 2020 at 12:41 pm

In Dec of 2019, I attended a performance of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” at this historic venue. The inside was in great shape & certainly helped define the term, intimate searing. I’d have loved to see a movie there back in the day, but literally not a bad seat in the house . If you live in Chicago or are planning to visit, be sure to check out their website for upcoming shows & tickets.

Alas the GrassRoots grill next door closed at the end of 2019.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on June 16, 2020 at 3:01 pm

Closing permanently at the end of the month.

https://chicago.suntimes.com/2020/6/16/21293236/mercury-theater-chicago-closing-permanently-due-to-fallout-from-covid-19-pandemic?fbclid=IwAR0vBUN63w0p49lEr4xfsOL8zlBwOnynpGHIU5dL3qHCjn6ExvFkVVcC8cI

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