Apollo Theatre

74 W. Randolph Street,
Chicago, IL 60601

Unfavorite 2 people favorited this theater

January 1945, Apollo Theatre in the background. Photo courtesy of Greg Russell via Forgotten Chicago FB page.

The New Chicago Theatre was opened in 1873 by actor-turned-producer James H. McVicker (whose self-named theater opened almost 20 years earlier) on the site of the mid-19th century Kingsbury Hall, which had been destroyed in the Great Fire of 1871. The theater was located on the corner of Randolph and Clark Streets and sat over 1,500. The New Chicago was subsequently renamed the Grand Opera House, Cristy’s Opera House, and later, the Music Hall. In 1893, the Music Hall was remodeled and renamed the Olympic Theatre.

Its next-door neighbor was the Adler & Sullivan jewel, the Schiller (later Garrick) Theatre, and the Woods Theatre sat adjacent to the Garrick at Randolph and Dearborn. Just across from the street from the Olympic on Clark Street was the huge Hotel Sherman. Sadly, none of these buildings survives today.

A blaze in 1907 caused extensive damage to the Olympic, but it was soon afterward rebuilt and reopened, operated by the Shubert brothers, and specializing in musical comedies. In the 1927, after the legitimate Apollo Theatre (1921) at Dearborn and Randolph Streets was converted into the United Artists movie house, the Olympic took the Apollo name as Shubert’s Apollo Theatre.

Among the many stars to play the Apollo’s stage was Mae West, whose “Diamond Lil” was a major hit, and played there for nearly a half year during the first half of 1929, before moving to the Great Northern Hippodrome Theatre.

Surviving as a legitimate house (as well as a venue for opera, vaudeville and even minstel shows) until 1934, the Apollo Theatre was at this time acquired by the always-expanding Balaban and Katz movie theater chain, and remained a movie house until closing in May of 1949.

After the Apollo Theatre closed, it was razed and replaced by a Greyhound bus terminal in 1953, which was in turn demolished in 1990 and replaced by the Chicago Title & Trust Building, which opened on the site in 1992.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

Broan on March 25, 2005 at 3:46 pm

You’re right. The LOC entry said 119 N Clark, I just must not have paid attention.

KenC on December 19, 2006 at 6:35 pm

In the Corner Bakery Cafe, on Randolph west of Dearborn st., you will find a pretty nice pic of the Apollo theatre(1934). It is located on the west wall of the restaurant. It is showing “JUDGE PRIEST” starring Will Rogers. Many other photos of downtown movie theatres are displayed throughout the place.

kencmcintyre on January 19, 2007 at 4:21 pm

The Apollo was gutted by fire on June 2, 1949:

Fire Guts Vacant Theater In Chicago

The interior of the vacated Apollo theater at Randolph and Clark Streets in Chicago’s Rialto was destroyed by fire Thursday morning. The fire apparently started in the pit under the stage of the old movie theater and burned up through the roof of the building. The cause of the blaze was not determined immediately. Fire officials did not estimate damages to the structure.

GrandMogul on March 28, 2007 at 2:52 pm

Famed “Schmeling-Louis” fight film shown at Apollo—–


Chicago Daily News, Friday, June 26, 1936, p. 36, c. 1—–


The Joe Louis-Max Schmeling fight pictures, complete from beginning to end have been booked in as extra screen attractions at eight Balaban & Katz theaters starting today. In the loop the pictures will be shown at the Roosevelt and Apollo theaters; west side Marbro; south side, Tivoli and Southtown; north side, Granada, Varsity and Uptown. The pictures showing the knockdown in slow motion, also start at the Regal theater on the south side on Sunday

kencmcintyre on November 6, 2008 at 4:42 pm

There was another fire in July 1944:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 7, 2010 at 4:17 am

A 1999 book, “History of the Development of Building Construction in Chicago” by Frank Alfred Randall and John D. Randall says that the New Chicago Theatre was designed by the firm of Burling & Adler.

Broan on August 19, 2011 at 10:26 am

Burling & Adler was Dankmar Adler’s firm before teaming with Louis Sullivan. Adler & Sullivan’s Schiller (Garrick) Theatre was adjacent to the Apollo, and the Borden Block, Adler & Sullivan’s first commission, was adjacent to the Schiller.

Broan on February 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm

http://tribune-files.imagefortress.com/attachment1s/209313/medium_wm/AEI-090-CT_F.JPG?1276085002 This appears to be the Apollo in 1929.

DavidZornig on October 8, 2015 at 9:54 am

1941 photo added. Looking East on Randolph. Apollo marquee on the left, photo courtesy of Tim O'Neill.

Broan on January 17, 2016 at 1:42 pm

Here and Here are THSA pictures of the Apollo

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater