Park West

322 W. Armitage Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60614

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Park West

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Opened November 25, 1916 for the Ascher Brothers circuit as the Lane Court Theatre, this theatre originally sat close to 1,000, and presented both movies and vaudeville acts. It was equipped with a Kimball organ. Located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood at W. Armitage Avenue (which was then known as Center Street) and N. Clark Street, the Lane Court Theatre was later renamed the Town Theatre, and became a burlesque house. By the 1960’s, it was showing adult movies, which it continued to do until it became the Town Underground Theatre screening independent movies from April 14, 1967.

In 1977, the Town Ubnderground Theatre was converted into a concert venue, renamed the Park West, and has served in this capacity ever since. Artists such as Tina Turner, Prince, and Eurythmics have performed the Park West, making the 750-seat theatre one of Chicago’s most popular smaller concert venues. The theatre is also used for special events.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

DavidZornig on November 10, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Just a bit more about the current Park West.
There are comfy black vinyl booths that are on ascending levels from the main floor which has tables of it’s own. These booths are seemingly always reserved in advance. However they kind of force the customer to turn their heads right or left for an entire performance. Since the seating in each booth does not truly “face” the stage. Though still the best seats to have, as the view is over the heads of all below you.

Next level up has many small round tables & chairs then a main aisle. Then some railing type counters with bar stools and a wall for some standing room. Also some VIP and railings with bar stools up at an upper catwalk like level along the back walls.

Drink service is brought to the all tables via waitstaff. However one can venture up to a main bar on the East wall, or to one of a few smaller bars if they wish to purchase their own.
Potentially losing an unreserved seat seemingly wouldn’t be worth it though.

There is a giant, rotating mirrored ball that hangs from the center of the original circular recessed ceiling. Some ornate plaster work is still visible in this gently backlit recess.
It’s really the only visible part of the theater’s original interior. There are some small suspended screens that highlight upcoming events hanging from the sides.
The lobby, hallways and restrooms are all mostly black & silver and modern looking. Even though most of the decor is 20 to 30 years old, one would never know it.

Normally the acoustics are perfect in the Park West. Making it a great place and preferred choice to see anything.
It did seem however that in some instances though that required an excess of individual mics, the sound suffered at times. Not sure whether it was the house, or the particular artist’s traveling sound or crew.
It seemed as if a performer wandered, the next mic he/she got to was not ready for them. But these were isolated instances, and not the norm by any means.
I’m also surprised at the amount of non-stop talking that goes on during some performances. As if the patons actually WERE in a nightclub or something. This practice seemed to increase as the night went on.
Still a great place.

Remember, if you go to Geja’s Fondue next door first, hot oil really IS hot oil. Maybe they should offer all the “talkers” gift certificates.

kencmcintyre on December 13, 2008 at 10:45 am

From Boxoffice magazine, May 1950:

Art Belasco, manager of the Lane Court Theater, ia now using dishes as giveaways three times a week to boost attendance.

DavidZornig on April 14, 2009 at 1:04 pm

Reactivate Notification Status.

HughJazz on April 25, 2011 at 10:39 pm

I worked here in 1971 and 72 in the box office as an Andy Frain Usher,when porn movies were being shown. Francis Frain, one of five brothers descended from THE Andy Frain, was one of the co-owners of Andy Frain Crowd Engineering, and lived in the high-rise across the street from the theatre. I would sometimes get a snack from Geja’s Cafe next door west on Armitage.

NSALERNO on November 2, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I lived at 440 W. Armitage from approximately 1938-1944. My parents owned a store-front grocery, which was demolished to make room for Augustana Hospital. I have no memories of the Lane Court re physical plant, but there are other memories which may call the theater into better focus. My mother took me to the movies every Sunday afternoon and every Tuesday night. These were the days of double features, so when I tell friends that I grew up in the dark, it is almost literally true. Tuesday night was Dish Night, that is, you were given FREE dishes if you attended that night. The dishes were Leigh Potters Maroon Emperor 22 K Gold Filigree. Until recently I still had the complete set for 12, including all the auxiliary pieces such as the sugar bowl and creamer. Two years ago I gave the set to a young married couple who will, I believe, give the set a longer life than mine. There were vaudeville acts weekly, but I do not remember on which night—quite possibly also on Tuesdays, since I saw many performers. None of these vaudeville acts were big time. I do remember that, being a child, I was generally bored by the vaudeville shows. Among the movies I am absolutely sure I saw at the Lane Court were Lassie Come Home, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Return of the Vampire, Is Everybody Happy?, and Sahara. I have many more distinct memories of the neighborhood—what is looked like, what was where, etc.—especially of Armitage from Clark St. to Arnold Elementary School, was was across the street from Waller High (now Lincoln Park High). I have searched for years for some object , some movie poster clearly marked with the name of the Lane Court, alas, without success.

Marymargaret on July 22, 2012 at 6:49 pm

NSalerno! I went to Arnold School in early fifties and graduated from Waller in 1958. I moved to Mo. in sixties and I am 70 and I miss Chicago and my old friends and schools. I was happy to come across your message it takes me back to the good old day’s.

NSALERNO on July 22, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Hi Marymargaret. Glad you enjoyed my comment. Do you remember the name of any of your teachers at Arnold? If you do, let me know. I lived on Armitage only for 4 years (1940-1944). We then moved west to 3617 W. Flournoy (1944-1948). Then to Phoenix, AZ. I’m 76,and I still feel a great sense of nostalgia for my Chicago days.I haven’t been back for nearly 10 years now, but whenever I do get to Chicago, I drive the length of Armitage and salute the Lane Court.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 16, 2016 at 11:56 pm

The recent opening of the Lane Court Theatre was noted in the December 9, 1916, issue of Motography:

“New Chicago House Opens

“Ascher Brothers' new Lane Court Theater in Chicago was opened to the public on Saturday, November 25, with much pomp and ceremony.

“In point of artistic decoration and novelty in construction there possibly is no other theater in Chicago resembling it.

“The arrangement throughout the house is what is generally conceded to be the most desirable. The interior of the theater is diamond shaped. The screen is placed in one corner of the building and the orchestra pit is sunk out of view, immediately under the screen. The walls are paneled and artistically finished in gold and tinted in delicate hues.

“In the center of the house there is an electrically lighted dome which will deflect a mellow light throughout the entire theater during performances, expelling much of the gloom and eyestrain now a commonly heard-of evil. Probably this will explain why a great many older people refrain from attending picture performances.

“The organ pipes are placed in two opposite corners with a large open compartment in back which will permit the organist to obtain some very beautiful musical effects. A Kimball organ has been installed, and an eight-piece orchestra will be a regular attraction. The ventilation of the theater is accomplished through a series of grates inserted into the walls near the floor.

“There will be a matinĂ©e each day, starting at 2:30 o'clock and lasting up to 5:00 o'clock; the evening performances will start at 6:30 o'clock and run until eleven. The admission prices will be: Children, five cents, adults, ten cents, and when special attractions are being shown the price will be raised to fifteen cents.”

rivest266 on November 14, 2016 at 12:08 am

This opened on April 14th, 1967 as the Town Underground. Its grand opening ad uploaded.

okcray on January 6, 2017 at 2:35 am

Aaron Gold led off his Tower Ticker column on Thursday, October 18, 1973 with “Another X-rated movie house bites the dust… the Town Theater on Armitage is being remodeled into a 500-seat dinner playhouse with projected mid-December opening date”. The last ad for the Town appeared in the Tribune three days earlier (October 15, 1973) and featured a triple bill of “Venice Nightmare”, “Virginia the Maid” and “The Pick-Off”. My last two times seeing concerts at the Park West were over 20 years ago (November 1995, Cathy Richardson Band cd release party and concert; November 1997, Paula Cole and Jennifer Trynin).

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