McClurg Court Cinemas
330 East Ohio Street,
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The McClurg Court Cinemas, which was last operated by the Loews Cineplex chain, was not by any stretch of the imagination anything architecturally stunning, or even very visually interesting.
It opened in 1971, and its exterior appearance still evokes that era pretty clearly, though the interior has been modernized more than once since then. For its first couple years in operation, it was a reserved seating-only roadshow house. In 1987, the large 1,189 seat auditorium was triplexed, creating one large main screen, and two much smaller screens (carved out of the balcony space).
The McClurg Court’s Auditorium #1 was for years the best place in all Chicago to see a major blockbuster, special effects packed epics such as “Titanic” or “The Matrix”, when lines would snake down Ohio Street. It had clear fields of vision, THX sound, and a 70 mm equipped projection system.
The two smaller screens were not as impressive, but did have stadium-style seating, wide aisles and DTS sound. When a major studio film, especially an action or sci-fi spectacular, premiered in Chicago, from the mid-1970’s through the 1990’s, this was most often where it took place.
However, since the opening of AMC’s 21-screen River East megaplex just down the block in 2002, attendance at the aging triplex began to fall off (though it had already been to some extent for some time). It was during the summer of 2003 that Loews Cineplex made the sad announcement it would be closing the McClurg on September 11th (though it actually ended up shuttering it August 28th instead). With its closing, a chapter in Chicago’s cinema history ended, since the McClurg Court was in many ways the last movie palace screening first-run films still in operation.
For many Chicagoans who were too young to attend the old movie palaces that had closed before they were born, like the Granada, Uptown or Southtown, the McClurg, though not remotely as huge or ornate as the old time palaces, walking into the original auditorium with its massive screen and 1,000+ seats, especially when it was packed and there was an excited buzz in the room just before a long-awaited summer blockbuster was about to begin playing, was an experience I personally will always remember fondly.
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