Marina Cinemas

300 N. State Street,
Chicago, IL 60610

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Marina City Cinemas

Part of the landmark Marina City towers complex near Chicago’s Loop, right along the Chicago River, built by Bertand Goldberg from 1964-67, the “City Within A City”’s movie theater was opened in 1970 and originally could seat about 1,700 in its three auditoriums. (The towers also included an indoor ice-skating rink, bowling alley and dry cleaners, as well as restaurants and, as its name would imply, a marina). It was originally operated by the United Artists chain. The Marina Cinemas was closed on May 17, 1977.

After sitting vacant for many years, the former movie house space was gutted and the space is now occupied by part of the House of Blues.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 34 comments)

DavidZornig on August 16, 2008 at 11:37 am

Greetings. My recollection was you accessed the theatres either through the West tower residential entrance, now the HoB lobby, and down an escalator. Or via the small Dearborn Street stairwell.
I don’t remember there being any type of real main entrance to the theaters.

The space age looking tube I refered to was access from the office building that housed Spencer’s Bowl, later the HoB Hotel, and ran under the main driveway overhead that connects State St. to Dearborn St. Through Marina City’s property. This access I believe still exists, and is next to the HoB HR office down on that level.Just West of the building commissary.

Part of the original “city within a building” concept, was the non-descript way that it included everything you would ever need. Stores, restaurant/bars, movies, skating, bowling and a boat marina complete with gas pumps.

More non-descript was the theatre’s actual indoor entrance. No real lobby to speak of. Once downstairs, just a few steps up to a counter for both tickets & refreshments. Only those backlit/shadow box poster housings on one wall indicated it was the theatres. Blue burlap walls were behind the ticket counter. All `60’s modern looking. Remember, these were likely considered Marina City’s theatres. Not the public’s, but yet it was open to the public. Like their own version of Cribs on MTV. Maybe Super Cribs.

Furthermore, the original plan was to regularly ship the buildings garbage away via barges on the river. Each floor has a trash chute that filled a hanging dumpster, that was then cabled away and down out over the river and onto a barge.
I don’t think this plan lasted long, or was even ever actually utilized as planned. In late 1990 or so, I was down near the marina, and saw a long suffering trashman, endlessly winching and aligning this cabled dumpster to his below street level access. In order to winch it onto a truck to be driven away like you normally see at construction sites. The whole process seemed to take 20 minutes or better. He just kept shaking his head.
I can’t imagine using trash barges was ever cost effective on a regular basis.

There was Marina Cinema’s signage facing South, on the giant horseshoe shaped building. Underneath that was the Dearborn stairwell entrance. If anything, this entrance could be considered the main one. If you weren’t already in the building.
Hope this helps.

I’m a newcomer to posting on Cinema Treasures. And just love it and am thankful it exists. Thanks to Bryan and all those who contribute.
So far I’ve learned I need to remember to Log-In every time I visit the site. When I didn’t, all that I wrote in the comments was lost until I did.
I know, I know, get a computer. And throw my WebTV on a barge. It’s so 1999 though.

DavidZornig on August 16, 2008 at 12:05 pm

P.S. To more accurately answer your question, I believe you too are correct. The HoB restaurant portion is and rather above the old theatres space.

The old theatres were accessed via the buildings lower level. But the 3 theatres would have cielings and screens that would likely span upwards, if that makes sense. Marina City was into “levels” for everything. Steps up to step down, etc.

The 3 hall configuration is intriguing. I’ll check it out. The screening rooms though seemed small compared to other theatres.
It again would be neat to see the original Marina City plans versus the HoB floorplan.
The ice rink was in the lower level too on the State Street side.
I’ve never looked in Smith & Wolensky’s lower level to see how it was changed. They seemed to have actually built up and down, in their space. There was a little offset room for the mini Zamboni the rink used throughout the day and night. There were 3 sisters regularly from Sacred Heart Academy, that were if anything professional skaters. They routinely melted the ice. Every pun intended.

DavidZornig on April 14, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Reactivate Notification Status.

kencmcintyre on July 18, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Here is the ad that Mike Rivest mentioned in January 2006:

thejimdoherty on January 19, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I only went to this theatre a few times, when my dad took me to see revivals of KING KONG and some Marx Brothers movies (1971?, I think I still have a couple of handouts from the revival series)and I believe later, for a revival of FANTASIA, although I may be wrong on that one.

rivest266 on June 25, 2012 at 3:52 pm

September 25th, 1970 grand opening ad is in the photo section.

GFeret on January 7, 2014 at 12:42 pm

i went to see movies here many times in the early-mid ‘70s. back then it was still possible to unearth a downtown free parking space on lower level wacker drive (in the vicinity of clark st). the thompson center had yet to replace the greyhound bus terminal. the film programming was near art-house in nature, so a welcome alternative to the mainstream look cinemas. the feeling then was while the old downtown movie palaces definitely were in a state of decline and being avoided more and more, this was not so at marina cinemas, all you had to do was cross the chicago river bridge that’s all. a slight problem was most people, including my friends, tended to forget about the marina cinemas altogether. knowing this i’d suggest a film to see and they’d ask with interest where it’s playing. when i replied marina cinemas they’d pause, finally say “oh, yeah”. then i’d add we’d eat afterwards @ pizzeria due’s just 2 blocks away. and lastly that old photo seen here of the 3 films playing @ 1-2-3 is just perfect IMO—those’re exactly the types of films i’d expect to see advertised playing here on a weekly basis. yes i miss the place and will never violate it’s memory for dan aykroyd’s sake

thejimdoherty on January 7, 2014 at 3:35 pm

I sort of had to laugh at the photo of the marquee. Can you imagine seeing something as gigantic as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA on one of those little Marina City screens?

GFeret on January 8, 2014 at 11:16 am

yeah, for that film you want to walk one block south and 3 blocks east, catch the restored LAWRENCE at the McClurg Ct where they ran the restored 70mm version(some years later on in 1989). Marina Cinemas was perfect for Woody Allen films, where i saw EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX when it opened. what bellylaughs my & my friends had

JudithK on February 24, 2016 at 5:46 am

Given the fact that I was out of town during the majority of Marina Cinemas' era (the theatres were open from 1970-1977, and I was away from 1971-1975) it is not surprising that I never saw a motion picture there. To date I have never been in the Marina City complex. I do appreciate the descriptions provided; thanks!

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