Chicago Theatre

175 N. State Street,
Chicago, IL 60601

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Chicago Theatre - Auditorium from left of balcony

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 284 comments)

DavidZornig on October 4, 2017 at 10:06 pm

Flickr link with a 1964 postcard (April `63 image).

Mikeoaklandpark on November 10, 2017 at 9:35 pm

The only thing I remember is it’s last movie operator was Plitt Theaters

RickB on November 10, 2017 at 10:25 pm

Last day of operation as a cinema was September 19, 1985 with “American Ninja” and “Teen Wolf,” both of which were also playing at suburban theaters. Plitt’s advertising for the Chicago at the end seems to have become sporadic at best—on the Saturday before the closing, their display ad notes an all-night Bruce Lee marathon at the Chicago but does not mention what might have been playing at other times. A Tribune story on the day after the finale alludes to $2.50 tickets and lots of martial arts films, so it’s likely that the theater was no longer a true first-run house.

DavidZornig on January 21, 2018 at 4:29 am

Posting this history of Balaban & Katz here as it is likely the most visited.

DavidZornig on June 21, 2019 at 1:36 pm

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

DavidZornig on June 21, 2019 at 3:54 pm

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

DavidZornig on June 21, 2019 at 4:18 pm

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

DavidZornig on June 21, 2019 at 4:19 pm

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

bigjoe59 on July 5, 2019 at 11:10 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.

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