Aardvark Cinematheque

1608 N. Wells Street,
Chicago, IL 60614

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Aardvark theater

Viewing: Photo | Street View

This art movie house theatre opened originally around 1966 at the Second City building, 1846 N. Wells Street, but moved to a new location in July 1967 at Piper’s Alley 1608 N. Wells Street in the Old Town neighborhood.

It showed avant-garde and experimental films. The seating capacity was for 240, which was larger than their original space which seated 160. It operated into the 1970’s

The Aardvark was part of a mini-chain of movie houses which also included the 3 Penny Cinema in Lincoln Park, the Bijou (a gay porn house) also on Wells Street, the Festival Cinema (formerly the Mode) on Sheridan Avenue, and the Rialto Theatre, a former burlesque house on South State Street.

Any further information would be appreciated on this short-lived cinema.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 23 comments)

actionplan52 on March 26, 2010 at 2:56 pm

By the way, photo credit for the Aardvark Theater picture is:
Photo by: P. Lekousis 1972

kencmcintyre on March 26, 2010 at 5:07 pm

I tried to take my ant to the Aardvark once, but she wouldn’t go inside.

KenC on July 27, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Some history of Old Town in 1969: from a Roger Ebert column in the Sun Times dated Friday, Oct. 10, 1969— “IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS, underground film buffs used to get together every Monday night at the old Second City and show their new works. The tradition is being revived at the new Los Angeles Coliseum Theater, 1653 N. Wells, with screenings at 7,9, and 11 p.m. Mondays. Included this week: John Hofsess' ambitious epic "Redpath 25”. The program is being organized by Jeff Begun, who also oversees the Aardvark. Jeff is celebrating this week because, on Wednesday, a judge ruled that Jack Smith’s film “Flaming Creatures” is not obscene. The Aardvark was busted for showing it, and the young girl who was selling tickets was thrown into jail overnight. Small consolation."

Broan on March 18, 2011 at 2:07 pm

The Termite was launched as an art house on March 29, 1972 but lasted only 7 weeks. It was such a financial failure that it did not even cover the cost of the projectionist. It then went to porn.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on May 31, 2011 at 4:02 am

The P. Lekousis photo was actually taken in 1973.

DavidDynamic on September 30, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Well, it looks as if the mega money has moved in and gentrified Old Town Wells St. I remember in ‘67 and '68 it seemed to be full of small independent business of various types. Was a great place to visit even though there was supposed to be an element of danger there. I can’t remember so much street traffic—it was the sidewalks that were packed with pedestrians. It was like a carnival with the smell of food, incense, etc. and the sounds of the various music stores,clubs, and Irish pubs. I thought Piper’s Alley was super cool with its brick street winding through. But, about the Aardvark, I am very surprised that the name stayed with me for so long. Some friends convinced me that I should go there to see the Andy Warhol movie called “Bike Boy.” The place was unimpressive to say the least—seemed to be a 16mm setup. Needless to say I don’t remember a single thing about the film, sorry Andy.

DavidZornig on February 12, 2014 at 5:22 pm

I just added a Free Pass image to the photos section. It applied to both the Aardvark and the Festival up North on Sheridan. Image courtesy of Bill West.

DavidZornig on March 6, 2014 at 3:29 pm

FYI. Just added a neat, rare handbill from 1968 to the Photos Section. Originally posted to the Chicago Old Town in the 1960’s Facebook page.

DavidZornig on May 3, 2015 at 12:13 am

Photo added of Chicago “Electric” Odyssey. Aardvark/Termite sign behind the Second Hand Rose sign.

luganrn on November 16, 2016 at 5:47 pm

I believe they showed X rated films as early as 1970 since I was taken there on a first (and last) date during that year at the tender age of 16.

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