Lincoln Hall

2424 N. Lincoln Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60614

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Lincoln Hall/3 Penny Cinema, Chicago, IL

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Directly across Lincoln Avenue from the much more famous Biograph Theatre, where John Dillinger was killed, sits the 3 Penny Cinema, which has been around just as long.

Opened in 1912 as a nickelodeon called the Lincoln Theatre, it became the Fullerton Theatre from 1914 to 1916. The building afterward was converted into a garage and machine shop. It was reopened in the late-1930’s as the Crest Theatre. On May 29, 1968 it was renamed 3 Penny Cinema and is often remembered with dubious fame as the site of the Chicago premiere of “Deep Throat”. Among its other historical highlights was hosting the FBI sharpshooters on its roof who sought to prevent Dilinger’s escape from the Biograph Theatre.

Though neither ornate or a palace by any means of the imagination, the theater was one of Chicago’s more popular movie houses. The decor was minimal, but the exterior still retained an antique ticket booth and fragments of its original Neo-Classical facade.

The auditorium, which once housed about 500, was divided into two screens in 1989 with one seating about 230 and the other seating 120.

The 3 Penny Cinema also featured foreign, classic, and independent films.

The 3 Penny Cinema was unfortuntely closed in June of 2006 by the city of Chicago due to its owners non-payment of amusement taxes, ending the movie-going experience on this stretch of Lincoln Avenue dating back to the early decades of the 20th century. The Biograph Theatre closed in 2004 and is has since been transformed into a live theatre venue owned by the Victory Gardens theatrical company.

The former 3 Penny Theatre re-opened as a concert venue named Lincoln Hall on October 16, 2009.

Contributed by John L. Roe, Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 41 comments)

Broan on February 5, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Excerpt from 2-5-09 Chicago Tribune, article “Director Ken Kwapis talks about the blizzard of ‘79 and Gene Siskel”

Director Ken Kwapis, a Belleville native, took time while promoting “He’s Just Not That Into You,” starring Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck and a host of others, to talk to the Tribune about his formative years in Chicago and directing the late Gene Siskel on “The Larry Sanders Show.”

“For quite a while, I managed the Three Penny Theater on Lincoln Avenue, right across from the Biograph,” Kwapis said. “I managed the theater during the blizzard of 1979. We were running John Carpenter’s film ‘Halloween,’ and like many theaters during the blizzard, we didn’t change the feature, because there was no point.

“So I could basically set my clock to ‘Halloween.’ Sitting in the lobby, I would play a game with myself. Without looking at my watch, I’d say, ‘Jamie Lee Curtis is just about to scream,’ then I’d open the door and she’d scream. I knew the film down to the quarter of the minute.”

Kwapis said the management running the Three Penny couldn’t make up its mind about the theater’s focus.

“The schedule was absurd. One week we’d show a new art film, say a Werner Herzog film, and the next week we’d run a porno feature. And the owner could never understand why we couldn’t develop an audience. I said, ‘Well, they’re totally confused, nobody knows what we’re showing.’ ”

-via David E. Zornig

DavidZornig on February 13, 2009 at 1:41 pm

I just remembered the 3 Penny Cinema opened it’s doors as a cooling station, during the annual “Taste Of Lincoln Avenue” street festival maybe 10 years ago. They allowed people to stp into the A/C, and to utilize the restrrom facilities.

It would have been difficult to operate normally as a theater during those 2-3 days. As Lincoln Ave. is blocked off for only those paying a hefty “donation”. And multiple band stages are set-up throughout the fair at street ends. The main entrance stage a mere 25 feet or so from the 3 Penny. People would actually scale the 3 Penny’s rooftop to see the last band of each night. Usually a big name band like Wilco, Cowboy Mouth or Big Head Todd.

DavidZornig on April 12, 2009 at 6:45 am

Still surrounded by scaffolds.

DavidZornig on May 20, 2009 at 5:07 am

Scaffolds are now down. The front of building’s first floor is still covered up during whatever remodling is ongoing. However there are new Marvin windows installed on the second floor overlooking Lincoln Ave. Shouldn’t be much longer.

DavidZornig on June 30, 2009 at 1:50 pm

If I remember correctly, they had the 3 Penny outfitted to look like a hotel for the filming of “Public Enemies. They hung a retro distressed neon HOTEL sign over the doorways in DarkRefrain’s above picture.

DavidZornig on July 27, 2009 at 11:57 am

Shaping up nicely. Good to see they tore off that ugly wood facade.
Must be big money into it by now.

Broan on September 6, 2009 at 8:30 pm

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Looks like the lost the proscenium and terrazzo somewhere along the way, too bad. Otherwise it looks like an awesome venue

CSWalczak on October 7, 2009 at 1:16 am

Another article about the former 3 Penney’s conversion to a concert venue:
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CSWalczak on January 31, 2010 at 1:58 am

A recent article about events, including free movie showings (probably video or digital projection) at Lincoln Hall, including a picture of the exterior as it is now:
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rivest266 on November 13, 2016 at 10:58 pm

This opened on May 29th, 1968. Its grand opening ad can be found in the photo section. 2 screens in 1989.

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