Uptown Theatre

4816 N. Broadway,
Chicago, IL 60640

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Uptown Theatre

One of the last great movie palaces in Chicago, this fabulous theatre was built by Balaban & Katz Corp. in the Uptown neighborhood, north of Chicago in 1925. The Uptown Theatre was the largest movie palace in Chicago, larger than any in the entertainment hub within the Chicago downtown known as ‘The Loop’, and according to the Theatre Historical Society of America list, was the 12th largest movie palaces ever built in the U.S.A. It was opened August 18, 1925 with the world premiere of First National Pictures “The Lady Who Lied” with Lewis Stone and Virginia Valli plus a Balaban & Katz stage presentaion “Under Spanish Skies”. At opening the orchestra pit housed a 60-person orchestra and the theatre was equipped with a Wurlitzer Grande 4 manual 20 rank theatre organ with was opened by noted organist Jesse Crawford.

Changing times and the shift in population have not helped the Uptown Theatre and although it was a destination for moviegoers for several decades, it was closed December 19, 1981 with a concert by the J. Geils Band. In 1991 it was designated a Chicago Landmark. Unfortunately, the Uptown Theatre 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 Theatre had become one of the last truly great movie palaces without a certain future. Preservationists and movie theatre enthusiasts enthused that the Uptown Theatre “must be saved before it is too late”. In 2014 the building was purchased by JAM Productions for $3.2 million. On June 29, 2018 it was announced that $75 million had been granted to restore the theatre, and it was approved by the Chicago Community Development Commission on November 13, 2018. Restoration work will begin in August 2019 with a completion planned for early-2021.

Recent comments (view all 503 comments)

Trolleyguy
Trolleyguy on April 12, 2019 at 1:00 pm

Citation for the above?

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on April 12, 2019 at 2:25 pm

It was written by Jonathan Ballew from Block Club Chicago, which is a pay to subscribe only news site.

https://blockclubchicago.org/2019/04/12/uptown-theatre-cac-event/

Trolleyguy
Trolleyguy on April 12, 2019 at 3:18 pm

Thank you David. Just wondering.

Scott
Scott on April 12, 2019 at 3:29 pm

What? I thought the financing for the $75M renovation was already earmarked? What happened to that? Last summer they announced that $75M had been granted from various sources to fund the renovation. What am I missing?

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on April 12, 2019 at 3:54 pm

I recall the estimate for asbestos abatement alone was $30 million 10 years ago. So maybe that portion was not part of the original restoration amount. $75 million was just the amount granted, not that that was necessarily the total amount that was needed.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on April 13, 2019 at 12:13 pm

FYI. Upcoming discussion by Andy Pierce, one of the founders of Friends of the Uptown.

https://www.glessnerhouse.org/programs/2019/5/2/for-all-time-the-promise-of-chicagos-uptown-theatre?fbclid=IwAR2f2s7yvW80Cq9MkBGH-wsxHBFkiWAJeeje6sxdaT-Y-tKPOGEEN86oV9Y

spectrum
spectrum on August 10, 2019 at 7:59 am

Latest from the Alderman James Cappleman’s website on June 29th:

https://www.james46.org/restoring-the-uptown-theatre/

The city officially announced the restoration, the state allocated $10,000,000 and they are looking to the city to alloocate another $13,000,000, and this will combine to get the project rolling. As they said, still some heavy lifting to do.

MarkDHite
MarkDHite on November 6, 2019 at 2:55 pm

Has there been any activity on beginning the Uptown’s restoration yet? Thanks!

LouRugani
LouRugani on December 3, 2019 at 4:15 pm

In November, 2018 the Community Development Commission was told that construction was expected to begin in summer, 2019. No work has begun. The delay, according to Jam Productions' Jerry Mickelsen, involves financing. Public funding included $14 million through the state’s Property Assessed Clean Energy Act; $13 million in tax-increment financing; $10 million in Build Illinois bond funding; $8.7 million in federal tax credits; and $3.7 million in the City of Chicago’s Adopt-a-Landmark funds. That money’s committed, but $26 million is still needed that was supposed to come from loans and investments. Mickelson said he expects that financing to come in early 2020. The reopening is now projected to be in 2022. A newly-founded Uptown Theatre Foundation is intended to act as a steward of the theatre and potentially receive donations to help restore it. Peter Strazzabosco, deputy commissioner in the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, told Chicago Tribune reporter Chris Jones that his department is continuing to work with the developer on a restoration plan that will also revitalize the Uptown entertainment district, to hopefully start before summer.

LouRugani
LouRugani on February 7, 2020 at 9:18 pm

The last remaining funds needed for the Uptown Theatre should be available soon, we’re hearing. Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said so in an email to residents. Work on the building could begin shortly after that, and today Cappleman said funding will likely be in place by late spring.

The Uptown Theatre since 1981 has largely been maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers who spent their own money to make sure the theatre didn’t deteriorate.

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