Park West

322 W. Armitage Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60614

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Park West

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Opened in the early 20s for the Ascher Brothers circuit as the Lane Court, this theater originally sat close to 1000, and presented both movies and vaudeville acts. Located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood at Armitage Avenue (which was then known as Center Street) and Clark Street, the Lane Court was later renamed the Town Theatre, and became a burlesque house. By the 60s, it was showing adult movies, which it continued to do until closing in the early 70s.

In 1977, the Town 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 theater one of Chicago’s most popular smaller concert venues. The theater is also used for special events.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

KenC
KenC on November 22, 2006 at 5:49 pm

You’re right, Brian. “DEEP THROAT” began its Chicago run on Friday, May 19, 1972, at the Admiral theatre, according to the Sun Times movie directory. It is advertised just as THROAT. When I saw the movie at the Town theatre, it was early 1973. From the Sun Times Thursday March 1, 1973 TOWN LINDA LOVELACE in the most discussed motion picture of the decade. THROAT X- RATED SPECIAL MIDNITE SHOW EVERY NIGHT! NOW IN ITS 37TH WEEK IN NEW YORK CITY!!! Admission $4.00 Matinees- $5.00 Evenings. By the way, if you go to roger ebert.com, and type in deep throat, you can read his review. It’s pretty entertaining (he gave it ZERO stars).

Broan
Broan on December 3, 2006 at 2:37 pm

Here are my photos of this theater.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on November 10, 2008 at 11:29 am

My mother has told me stories of taking the street car with her brothers in the `40’s to see movies at the Lane Court Theatre.
A friend of mine was also involved in the 1977 conversion.

Since 1982, at the Park West I’ve seen The Turtles, James Brown, Nick Lowe, Bjorn Again(don’t ask), Cheap Trick/Benefit for the Chicago Homeless, John Entwistle(worst sound ever), Polyphonic Spree, Tributosaurus, Jenny Lewis, & JAM’s Christmas is for Kids auction in 2001. Along with countless other shows I can’t recall.

In 1985, a local radio personality named Brad Palmer or something had an event at the Park West that our dealership Fanning Cadillac partially sponsored.
Brad was famous for doing street slang style soap opera updates, on several radio stations under the name Clarence and other psuedonyms.
He then took that gig national after an apparent brief legal threat by one of the TV networks. Guess they gave in after realizing any publicity is good publicity.
He was close friends with one of our sales managers. I think he even had chrous girls called “The Bradettes” or another play on one of the names he used. It was a wild night that we provided cars for.

I’m not sure about the Park West’s “nightclub” status on dark nights. I’ve never known them to be open without name entertainment or a specific event.

Down the street at Armitage & Sedgwick was a place called The Ultimate Sports Bar & Grill. Where the bank is now.
Ultimate had a boxing ring with dining tables inside of it, among other sports themed stuff. Pop-a-Shot, etc. It was one of the few places in Chicago to ever have just their specific address voted dry.
After countless complaints of rowdy patrons exiting the premises and urinating on neighboring lawns.

Strangely the 4-5 other bars nearby never had that problem.

Across from the Park West was one of the original Playboy Clubs, on the upper first floor of the tall residential building. When Playboy closed, the site reopened as the Four Torches. Which had just that burning across the facade about 20 feet apart.

Around the corner on Lincoln in 1982 or so, Augustana Hospital had a newly built, multi level parking garage that also served the Park West. Strangely the hospital & lot was then sold and all torn down to construct the town home/row houses that now line Lincoln North of Armitage Ave.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on November 10, 2008 at 2:27 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
kencmcintyre on December 13, 2008 at 8:45 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
DavidZornig on April 14, 2009 at 10:04 am

Reactivate Notification Status.

HughJazz
HughJazz on April 25, 2011 at 7:39 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
NSALERNO on November 2, 2011 at 3:05 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
Marymargaret on July 22, 2012 at 3:49 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
NSALERNO on July 22, 2012 at 4:18 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.

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