Sandburg Theatre

1204 N. Dearborn Street,
Chicago, IL 60610

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Roger in front of the Playboy, 1971

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened in 1913 as the New Dearborn Theatre, later just the Dearborn Theatre, this theater stood at the corner of Division Street and Dearborn Street. Originally, the theater’s main entrance was on Division Street (40 W. Division), but was later moved to Dearborn Street.

The Dearborn Theatre was remodeled in 1934 by the firm of Pereira & Pereira. By the 1940’s, the Dearborn Theatre was known as the Surf Theatre. In September 1964, the Surf Theatre closed and was reopened later the same month as the Playboy Theater, which was originally known for screening eclectic and offbeat films. It also was one of the venues which hosted the Chicago International Film Festival during its early years.

In 1976, the Playboy Theater was renamed the Chelex Theatre, and in 1979, the theater was renamed one final time, as the Sandburg Theatre, which screened repertory films. The Sandburg Theatre lasted until April 1983, when it was closed.

A Walgreens was later built on the site of the theater.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 33 comments)

Drawboy on September 29, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I lived down the street from the Sandburg Theatre from 1980-81, and spent many evenings there. Just at the dawn of this new invention called the VCR, and the end of the repertory theater era. It was wonderful filling the gaps in my movie going experience and seeing great films on the big screen. One highlight was Night of the Hunter, which remains a personal favorite.

Dan Matson
Dan Matson on January 25, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Here is the new link to the June 20th 1942 article in BOXOFFICE:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 16, 2012 at 9:15 am

The principals of Pereira & Pereira, the firm that designed the 1934 and 1942 remodeling jobs for this theater, were William Pereira and Hal Pereira. Percival Pereira was an older architect who was never a member of this firm.

imquirky on November 28, 2013 at 5:12 pm

The Playboy Theater originally had Playboy Bunnies in full costume working the box office and the popcorn counter. I used to go there as a teen in the 60’s; I lived about 2 blocks away. I marveled at how those girls were wedged into those bunny suits! The Playboy mansion was right around the corner (on State St.)

I saw these films there—-I was a rabid Anglophile into the Brits (read: Beatles):

06/17/66 – MORGAN
11/16/66 – GEORGY GIRL

Bruce Calvert
Bruce Calvert on March 14, 2015 at 6:05 pm

A couple of theater programs from the Dearborn Theatre:
February 11, 1918
February 25, 1918

samariano on April 5, 2015 at 11:39 pm

to: efes on April 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm I was friends with Bob & Marty also. Maybe we know each other???

gracevirgilio on September 5, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Back in the 70’s I would go to the Playboy movie theatre, to see some off beat movies. There’s one in particular, that I cannot recall. Is there a listing you can post?


DavidZornig on September 5, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Grace, click on “(view all 30 comments)” at the top next to “Recent comments”. Then scroll back to the one posted by JRS40 on September 5, 2008 at 11:18 pm. It is a list of all the films from 1964-1977 that played at the Surf and Playboy.

GTL on September 6, 2015 at 1:44 pm

The films posted by JRS40 seem to be feature films only. All Night Shows are not part of the list. If you can’t figure out the film you are looking for, Grace, a plot description may help.

JRS40 on October 2, 2015 at 1:46 pm

GTL – Yes my list is only for the main attractions and not the all night weekend shows.

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