Copernicus Center

5216 W. Lawrence Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60630

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Copernicus Center

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Gateway Theatre was one of the larger neighborhood theatres built for the Balaban & Katz chain in Chicago, located in the Jefferson Park neighborhood on Lawrence Avenue at Laramie Avenue. The theatre was opened on June 27, 1930, designed in Atmospheric style with classical Roman-inspired flourishes; complete with a dark blue, starlit sky in the 2,092-seat auditorium, and classical statuary and vines on the side walls. It was one of only a very few Atmospheric style theaters by the firm of Rapp & Rapp, and one of the later of their numerous theatres for Balaban & Katz.

The Gateway Theatre was built for movies, though it did have a small stage. It remained a very popular theatre for decades, managing to have packed houses through the 1970’s.

In 1985, the Copernicus Foundation, a Polish-American society serving Chicago’s huge Polish community, acquired the Gateway Theatre from Plitt Theatres, and the interior was restored to its original splendor. As part of the restoration, the foundation added the now-distinctive Solidarity Tower, a smaller reconstruction of a now-demolished clock tower once a feature of Warsaw’s Royal Castle, visible from the nearby Kennedy Expressway.

Today, the Copernicus Center is host to community gatherings and concerts, most notably, the popular Taste of Polonia Fair. It is also used for a while for special film screenings, but these have now ended. The main auditorium is named the Mitchell P. Kobilenski Theater.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 76 comments)

Scott on June 29, 2010 at 12:06 pm

I hadn’t thought of the exterior (as is) qualifying for landmark status. That’s an interesting perspective. You’re certainly right about the interior. Though it is somewhat plain by 1920s standards, it is still an attractive design, and as you said, that rare Rapp & Rapp atmospheric. The only other one I know of is the Paramount in Toledo (razed).

jwarren on June 29, 2010 at 1:29 pm

The Gateway struck me as a smaller, plainer (cheaper) version of the Southtown. But when the Gateway in full decorative lighting is experienced, it is truly stunning.

TLSLOEWS on July 16, 2010 at 3:51 pm

WoW this Theatre had one great vertical sign at one time.

GFeret on August 23, 2010 at 9:49 am

i was here in the gateway just the other wknd for a show

jackasses don’t even have an ordinary water fountain anymore

jwarren on August 24, 2010 at 1:17 pm

That’s because they can’t make any money off of it – so out it goes!

Twilly on August 24, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Pay toilets are next!

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on August 25, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Jay Warren for Mayor, 2011

mp775 on October 12, 2010 at 5:47 am

If the Copernicus Foundation is planning a NEW theater for the site next to the Gateway, that means the land underneath the Gateway could become “ample free parking” for the new theater…

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on October 17, 2010 at 6:43 pm

They put a new screen up. Finally!!!!

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