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 29 comments)

GTL on May 9, 2010 at 8:56 am

Sorry to hear about Jerry. I had only heard of him, never met him. I asked my husband about the chimp, again. He was very busy inside the theater but said it was possible that the chimp was part of whatever was going on outside. He personally, never saw one. So, you may both be correct. Glad you enjoyed the All Night Shows. We had a laugh at the mention of Lane Drugs.

DavidZornig on May 9, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Greetings gtl. You surely remember Oliver’s Pub then too. It was just to the North of Lane Drugs on Dearborn, directly across from the Playboy Theater. My grade school Ogden actually had our graduation luncheon there. Only on the Near North side in the `70’s, would a school take a bunch of kids to a bar.

If you are ever down there, there is still an Oliver’s Pub advertisement painted on the brick wall, across the alley from Five Faces. It is up on the East elevation above Shennanigan’s, and is partially covered by exterior duct work from when Shennanigan’s had a grill inside.

I’m sure you also remember the China Doll on the S/E corner too. With their fleet of bashed up, red AMC Gremlin delivery vehicles. Driven by drivers who literally parked by ear.

efes on April 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm

I use to go to the Playboy Theater often around 1970 when Bob Lyman was the manager. Remember seeing Start the Revolution Without Me (Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland) several times. Stayed friends with Bob and his wife (at that time) Martha, until I lost touch with both of them in the late 70’s. Played darts on a team for Oliver’s Pub. Remember Lane Drugs and lots of other great places in the neighborhood.

GTL on August 28, 2011 at 9:16 pm

I remember Bob well.

Drawboy on September 29, 2011 at 11:11 am

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 1:56 pm

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

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 16, 2012 at 6:15 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 2:12 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 3:05 pm

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

samariano on April 5, 2015 at 8:39 pm

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

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