Chicago Theatre

175 N. State Street,
Chicago, IL 60601

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Chicago Theatre - Auditorium from left of balcony

Viewing: Photo | Street View

One of the grandest movie palaces ever built, this 3,896-seat palace opened on October 26, 1921, the work of the firm of Rapp & Rapp, the favored architectural firm of the theater’s original operators, the Balaban & Katz chain.

The Chicago Theatre was restored in 1986 to its 1930’s appearance and now hosts a mix of concerts, live entertainment, and assorted special events (like the annual Glamorama fashion show sponsored by Macy’s -formerly Marshall Field’s- and the occasional movie screening for the Chicago International Film Festival).

Recent comments (view all 271 comments)

RickB on September 3, 2012 at 2:39 pm

So who are Chad and Francois? They have their names on the Chicago’s marquee at the 16-second mark of this AT&T spot.

Scott on October 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Interesting photo. Obviously taken from the marquee of the State-Lake Theatre across the street.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on October 29, 2012 at 2:29 pm

This photo was not taken across the street on the State-Lake marquee. The State-Lake was directly across the street from the Chicago. This photo may have been taken from the L station platform.

Broan on November 4, 2012 at 10:44 am

Here is a great picture showing the wonderful detail of the second marquee.

KenC on January 18, 2013 at 2:49 pm

In the 1957 movie “BEGINNING OF THE END”, you can see the Chicago and Loop theatres at exactly 1 hour and 23 seconds into the film. On the Chicago marquee “MOBY DICK” ; the Loop is showing “MEET ME IN LAS VEGAS”. Can be seen- for free- at YouTube.

LouRugani on February 18, 2013 at 10:34 pm

(Chicago Tribune, September 27, 1996)

Sign Of The Times

State Street Is Losing Its Brightest Light, But Only For A Short While.

Chicago Theatre Getting A Brand-new Old Look

By Sabrina L. Miller, Tribune Staff Writer.

Aging stars don’t burn out—they get replaced. After 75 illuminating years, the towering Chicago Theatre sign, State Street’s brightest star and one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, is coming down this week. The 76-foot-high steel sign, with 2,534 lights screaming “Chicago” for all to see, is corroded beyond repair and must be removed, said Chicago Theatre Executive Director Wendy Heimann-Nunes.

“We are ensuring that the sign will look as it did when it was first put up,” he said.

Theater officials discovered the sign’s deterioration during a routine inspection last March, after the Civic Preservation Foundation assumed management of the theater. The sign appeared fine on the outside, but 75 years of Chicago’s harsh weather had taken its toll on the inside.

“It had to be close to falling, the steel was so rusted,” said Steve Kieffer, owner of Kieffer & Co., the Sheboygan, Wis., firm that is manufacturing the replica for $500,000.

“If it was at all possible to keep the original, we would have done it,” said Heimann-Nunes. “But it would have cost us two to three times as much to repair than to replace.”

So, how does one go about replicating a national landmark? Painstakingly, said Kieffer. Everything must be identical, from the seams between the metal pieces and obsolete maintenance ladders inside the top of the sign to intricate scrollwork.

The entire project will take about 860 hours of work, he said. The sign will be made in Sheboygan, then shipped to the Kieffer firm’s Buffalo Grove office, where an installation team will take it to Chicago.

The replica will be constructed from aluminum, which weighs about one-third less than the current steel sign and will ease stress on the building, Kieffer said. There will be a modern wiring system and “chaser” lights around the perimeter will be reconnected.

“We’ve gone to the nth degree to replicate it,” Heimann-Nunes said. “I don’t think anybody will know the difference.”

robboehm on February 11, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Shirley Temple made her Mark(er) in June 1934. See photo section.

Redwards1 on March 18, 2014 at 7:31 pm

San Francisco does have one remaining movie palace, or close to it: the Castro, which is not downtown but, like Chicago’s Patio, a neighborhood theatre. The Castro shows continual movie repertory & is home to the San Francisco International Silent Film Festival, which features newly restored prints & live music. The only thing missing is an adequate lobby & restrooms. The auditorium is large rather than huge & in good condition, with restoration of much original d├ęcor.

bigjoe59 on March 19, 2014 at 4:18 pm


thanks for your reply. the Castro is indeed alive and well but doesn’t qualify since like many grand old movie theaters built 1914-1941 was built from the get go as a 2nd/3rd run neighborhood theater. I am specifically looking for theaters built 1914- 1941 that were built from the get go as 1st run venues and have continued to operate as such since the day they opened. the only one I have come across is Grauman’s Chinese in Hollywood.

also while I’ve been to San Francisco I’ve never
been in the Castro Theater. what’s inadequate about
the restrooms?

DavidZornig on March 23, 2015 at 10:39 am

This link has photos of a dual premiere at both the Chicago and State-Lake Theatres in 1940. Copy & paste to view.

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