Uptown Theater

4816 North Broadway,
Chicago, IL 60640

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Uptown Theater

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One of the last great movie palaces in Chicago, this fabulous theater built in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago was built in 1925 and was the destination for moviegoers until the theater closed on December 19, 1981.

Changing times and the shift in population have not helped the Uptown Theater. Additionally, the Uptown Theater has succumbed to water damage, vandalism and the wear and tear of time. Every year its exterior stands stoically facing the cold winter while its interior slowly erodes.

The Uptown Theater is one of the last truly great theaters without a certain future. The Uptown Theater must be saved before it is too late.

Recent comments (view all 444 comments)

ThePhoenix
ThePhoenix on March 8, 2013 at 12:03 pm

A note to especially “paullewis”:

I agree with you that the Rialto is notable but keep in mind that the thrust of my mention of that venue was not to compare theaters but to give direction as to how the funding and renovation might be achieved.

Irrespective of the Rialto’s venue, the machinery used to affect the success there might be looked into for possible parallel applications to seize a similar opportunity in application to Chicago’s Uptown.

The Rialto’s venue is obviously not the same as Chicago’s uptown in physical size however, it is competitive in its ornate collage compilation of culture of its day and European representations. A news excerpt found in http://www.rialtosquare.com/vision_takes_form.asp puts the intent of venue into its proper context:

“When the doors of the new Rialto open tomorrow, Joliet will have one of the finest theaters in the United States, as experts say there is nothing to compare with it in any city of similar size, and it stands on even terms with the modern motion picture palaces of Chicago and New York.

Joliet Sunday Herald News
May 23, 1926"

Seeing the Uptown’s internal design I would say the Rialto in Joliet is “on even terms with the modern motion picture palaces of Chicago and New York.” of those days and times. The very ornate French, Greek, Roman and Byzantine architectural details and fixtures of the Joliet Rialto are in my observation equal to if not greater than that found in the Uptown.

The Uptown’s Spanish baroque and Renaissance style is decidedly a different kind of ornamentation. Beauty, in this case, is perhaps in the eye and appreciation of the beholder!

Of notable difference is that the Uptown is physically larger. It is a little over twice the seating capacity of the Joliet Rialto however, if the Rialto was similarly sized proportionately to the Uptown with its concentration of detail I believe the Uptown detail would hands down pale if not be hard pressed in comparison!

The script in the Rialto site: http://www.rialtosquare.com/palace_for_the_people.asp attests to its highly competitive design especially due to the architecture it is similar to or mirroring:

“The esplanade, or inner lobby, is designed after the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles near Paris, France. The arch between the esplanade and rotunda area has been carefully copied from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. In the center is the head of the goddess Athena.

To the upper right of the arch is a symbolic bas-relief, in the form of a dragon, entitled “Labor Fighting the Evils of Today.” On the left side is “Man’s Labor,” showing the harvesting of wheat.

The elegant rotunda is surrounded by 18 Corinthian-style columns, and surmounted by a dome very similar to the Pantheon in Rome. The suspended eight-arm crystal chandelier, the “Duchess,” bronze giant of some 200 fixtures, is 20 feet long with 250 lights. The large prisms are of the Marie Therese cut which was popular during the Rococo period.

Draperies throughout the theatre were of the early Dufour period. Encircling the rotunda in full view, is the Goddess of the Eastern Star."

The Uptown’s front outdoor facade pales in comparison to the Rialto’s grand niche that rises to 100' 1" with its columns at its front entrance!

Illinois Great Places http://www.illinoisgreatplaces.com/ sums the Rialto up further:

“The "Rubens Rialto Wonder Theatre” was designed by nationally prominent theater architects, Rapp & Rapp. The sumptuous ornamentation throughout and the scale and beauty of the many lobbies was unusual for a theatre in a town the size of Joliet. A variety of classical and more exotic ornament graces the building’s exterior. On the interior, the inner lobby was based on the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles in France. The archway dividing it and the rotunda was based on the Arc de Triomphe. The rotunda itself was based on the Pantheon in Rome. As with many of the great theaters of the 20’s and 30’s the Joliet Rialto Theatre was a place where the average person could walk through a “palace.” The Rialto, like some other AIA Great Places, such as the State Park lodges, reflects the increase in recreational opportunities available to the middle class between the world wars. As architect George L. Rapp [1878 – 1949] stated about his theaters: “Here is a shrine to democracy where there are no privileged patrons. The wealthy rub elbows with the poor” The Rialto was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978"

I would like to see a similar representation of intent and grandeur that the Uptown is designed to emulate for an offset comparison. The Uptown appears to me to be a more original collage of Spanish baroque and Renaissance style without the historical associations of specific historical European architecture as are found in Joliet’s Rialto!

None-the-less not to preserve similarly the Uptown in its per se venue would certainly be a tragic loss to architecture’s heritage and mankind.

ThePhoenix
ThePhoenix on March 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Compare the two theaters for yourselves folks. Do a search in your favorite search engine" “joliet rialto pictures”.

LouRugani
LouRugani on May 12, 2013 at 11:28 am

WGN-TV’s ( www.wgntv.com/ ) live News at Nine (PM) on Tuesday May 14 will take its cameras inside the UPTOWN Theatre to see how it looks today. Then on Wednesday, May 15’s News at Nine reports on plans for a planned music district centered around the theatre. And then on May 15 at 10 pm, CLTV will broadcast a live half-hour special “Creating a Music District” with theatre owner Jerry Mickelson, Alderman James Cappleman and the Green Mill Lounge owner Dave Jemilo with host Randi Belisomo to discuss plans and take viewers' questions, which can be submitted in advance to the CLTV Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/cltvnews?ref=tn_tnmn ) or by phone to 877-358-CLTV. Follow the discussion on Twitter with @CLTVNews and use the hashtag #Uptown. All of the stories will be posted on www.wgntv.com and www.cltv.com.

JustinWhitfield
JustinWhitfield on June 15, 2013 at 11:35 pm

One of my favourite theatres in the world…I wish we had a grand theatres like this one here in Australia…

If i had the money i would love to buy this theatre or one like this one, Like many others, just to bring her back to life.. And I know from the local TV station that’s this is what is about to happen to the Uptown.

I believe that people love these grand theatre because there is such an emotional connection and an experience that you can not get any where else in the world.

Walking through that grand foyer alone would be just the biggest wow factor let alone walking into the theatre itself to here your favourite band, movie etc.

Would love to be part of helping in the restoration of this grand theatre as I had a lot to do with the capital Theatre in Sydney Australia from the entire audio system it was an Honor to work there for two years, and from that I have had a massive passion for large theatres as it is my dream to own one, one day soon. And was honoured to be the sound engineer for the first opening it was amazing…

The funny thing is I am looking to move to the USA in the next year or two for business.

Would love to be part of the dream is their anything that I can do here in Australia as i know there looking to raise $80- $100 million

Your biggest fan

Justin Whitfield

paullewis
paullewis on March 9, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Like Justin Whitfield I wish I had a substantial amount of money to donate towards the restoration of what has to be one of the top 5 or 6 Movie Palaces of all time. In Australia they have managed to save the Melbourne Regent (auditorium although not as large, based on the much lamented Capitol/New York, my all time favourite) The Sydney State with one of the finest lobbies anywhere and of course the wonderful Capitol in Sydney. The loss of the Brisbane Regent was a disgrace, arguably the finest overall in the country.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on May 6, 2014 at 3:26 am

There’s been some talk of locating a George Lucas museum here. So far it doesn’t seem too serious.

http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local/chicago_news&id=9514518

Trolleyguy
Trolleyguy on June 28, 2014 at 11:19 pm

The new “Transformers” movie prominently features the Uptown at the beginning of the film. The only thing is, that it has been moved to a small town in Texas. There are shots in the lobby and auditorium, as well as the projection room.

whtesoxfan56
whtesoxfan56 on November 19, 2014 at 2:29 pm

So are all the Transformers(2014? I’ve lost count of the # of Transformers movies Bay has done, since I don’t care about them for the most part, since calling it quits to this series after Transformers 2) Uptown Theater scenes, only at the beginning of the film, and there aren’t any later in the plot? Interesting to know, since I’d still like to catch this movie on cable at some point, and just watch the Uptown Theater scenes outta minor curiosity.

moviefanaticfan
moviefanaticfan on January 11, 2015 at 11:32 am

Here is a video link

http://wgntv.com/2013/05/14/rekindling-the-magic-of-the-uptown-theater/

LuisV
LuisV on January 26, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Until recently, arguably, the two most magnificent of the world’s remaining unrenovated theaters were the Uptown in Chicago and the Loew’s Kings in Brooklyn. That title now belongs to the Uptown alone! The Loew’s Kings $95MM restoration and expansion has been completed! Here is a great link to some incredible photographs of the fully restored masterpiece by Rapp & Rapp. FREE Tours to the public will be offered on Saturday, February 7th from 12:00 – 4:00 PM! I can’t wait to see it for myself! The first event, a sold out performance by Diana Ross, is on February 3rd!!!!! I hope this gives fans of the Uptown in Chicago some hope! http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2015/01/26/behold_brooklyns_magnificently_restored_kings_theatre.php#more

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