Chicago Theatre

175 N. State Street,
Chicago, IL 60601

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Chicago Theatre - The Front

One of the grandest movie palaces ever built, this 3,880-seat palace opened on October 26, 1921 with Norma Talmadge in “The Sign on the Door”. There was a 50-piece orchestra and organist Jessie Crawford opened the Wultitzer 4 manual, 29 ranks theatre organ which in 1923 had a second console added to the instument. This console was opened by Mrs Crawford (Helen Anderson) and she played in tandem with her husband for the following three years.

The Chicago Theatre was designed by Rapp & Rapp, the favored architectural firm of the theatre’s original operators, the Balaban & Katz chain, the Chicago Theatre was their flagship house. The facade of the building was based upon the Arc de Triomph in Paris, France and is glazed in off-white terra-cotta. The interior design is based on elements of the Palace of Versailles in France. Seating was provided for 1,984 in the orchestra, 392 in the mezzanine and 1,504 in the balcony. The stage was 112ft wide and 30ft deep. Later operated by Plitt Theatres, they closed the Chicago Theatre as a movie theatre on September 19, 1985 with Michael Dudikoff in “American Ninja” & Michael J. Fox in “Teen Wolf”.

The Chicago Theatre was restored to its 1920’s appearance in 1986, reopening on September 10, 1986 with Frank Sinatra on stage. The huge six-stories high vertical sign is original to the building and together with the marquee (dating from 1949) have served as the unofficial emblem of the City of Chicago. It 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).

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 289 comments)

DavidZornig on June 21, 2019 at 5:36 am

Saul Smaizys mid `70s pic via Flickr. Will enlarge in link.

DavidZornig on June 21, 2019 at 7:54 am

3/14/75-4/17/75 Saul Smaizys photo via Flickr. Will enlarge in link.

DavidZornig on June 21, 2019 at 8:18 am

9/16/77-10/06/77 Saul Smaizys photo.

DavidZornig on June 21, 2019 at 8:19 am

Additional 9/16/77-10/06/77 Saul Smaizys photo.

bigjoe59 on July 5, 2019 at 3:10 pm

Hello from NYC-

i was wondering during the prime roadshow period (1952-1972) which Chicago theaters did studios regularly use for their roadshow engagements? Manhattan had 7.

davidcoppock on January 7, 2020 at 7:16 am

The father of the singer Toni Basil(who sang the song “Mickey”), Louis Basilotta conducted an orchestra at this theatre.

macoco on January 7, 2020 at 2:43 pm

Bigjoe59: The Michael Todd, Cinestage, McVickers, Palace (AKA Bismark)—these were the regular venues during the 50s and 60s. The Roosevelt had The Longest Day and the United Artists had Funny Girl and Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Willburg145 on February 16, 2020 at 4:23 am

It’s great that this beauty escaped the fate of so many grand theatres, demolition.

Trolleyguy on February 21, 2020 at 5:35 pm

I just uploaded a 1941 marquee picture.

DavidZornig on May 6, 2020 at 6:17 am

Photos of Loop, Chicago & Shangri-La Theatres in below link.

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