Harper Theater

5238 S. Harper Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60615

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1994 photo credit Mike Tuggle.

The Harper Theater was built in 1914, but due to a legal dispute it didn’t open until May 24, 1915. This 1,201-seat theater was designed by architects Z. E. Smith and Horatio R. Wilson. It once contained a Kimball organ. In April 1930 it became part of the Schoenstadt circuit. In the late-1930’s it was remodeled by architect Mark D. Kalischer in a Streamline Moderne style.

On December 25, 1970 it became the Hyde Park 2 still a single screen) and still later was increased to four screens. After Schoenstadt, the theater was operated by Kohlberg Theatres, M & R Theatres, Sony Theatres, and finally the Meridian chain. The Hyde Park Theatres closed in spring of 2002.

The theater was renovated in 2011-2012 and reopened on January 18, 2013 under its original Harper Theater name. It still has four screens, but has been completely renovated inside, as well as given a new marquee and vertical sign. The theatre is owned by the University of Chicago, and is operated by the New 400 Theaters, which also manages the New 400 Theaters in Rogers Park. The reopening of the Harper Theater brings movies back to the Hyde Park area for the first time in over a decade.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft, Ray Martinez

Recent comments (view all 46 comments)

JudithK on January 22, 2012 at 9:10 am

As seen from my commuter train the Hyde Park Theatres (never visited it as I’m a suburbanite) is covered with scaffolding. As it is in an area of demolition/redevelopment, is the theatre going to be renovated, or demolished? For those of you who live, or have lived, in Hyde Park or Kenwood, here’s a link to the redevelopment going on. http://www.hydepark.org/historicpres/theater.htm

Stevewatchesmovies on January 16, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Just drove past today. The markee is up and it is being called the Harper theater. On the digital sign it said opening this Friday. I haven’t seen any info in the paper or online about if it. Is true or not. Bout time it opened back up.

Bruce C.
Bruce C. on January 16, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Their website says they are opening on Friday. Here’s the link: http://www.harpertheater.com

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on April 1, 2014 at 9:32 am

With University of Chicago nearby this could work out well. The old 400 Theater near Loyala U. on the North Side still seems to be doing OK. As far as I know there are no other cinema options around Hyde Park.

mo4040 on July 16, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Just saw a movie there last Friday. The place is very clean and has a courteous staff. I grew up in Hyde Park and I am glad this venue has re-opened. Hopefully, with the U of C behind it, it will do well and be a positive for the neighborhood.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 30, 2014 at 1:39 am

Mark D. Kalischer, architect for an extensive remodeling of the Harper Theatre in the 1930s, wrote an article about the house for the January 7, 1939, issue of Boxoffice, which has three photos of the Harper in its Streamline Modern configuration:

First page

Second page

In addition, another article in the same issue features a couple of small photos of the Harper’s remodeled rest rooms:

First page

Second page (no photos, but additional text for those who only get the magazine for the articles.)

moax429 on July 20, 2016 at 9:17 pm

Does a train line run close to this theater?

If so, I remember my dad (may he rest in peace) and I would pass by it on the train when the theater was the Hyde Park in the summer of 1979. (I was working at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago with my dad that year; that was my first real job as I was 17 then.)

I remember the marquee had comedy and tragedy masks adorning it and before I began my senior year of high school in late August of that year, the Hyde Park was playing the original Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope, along with some vintage Tom and Jerry cartoon shorts for the kids. (I saw Star Wars again at the now-demolished Diana in Homewood. To be sure, it had me longing for when I first saw it with my cousin in Pennsylvania two years before, as well as the better times I had in Lansing, Michigan during 1977.)

rivest266 on November 12, 2016 at 5:43 pm

The first ad as Hyde Park from December 30th, 1933 can be found in the photo section.

rivest266 on November 12, 2016 at 6:10 pm

2 screens on December 25th, 1970. Grand opening ad in the photo section.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on November 22, 2018 at 11:31 pm

No. No. No. The Harper Theatre at 5238 S. Harper was NEVER twinned in 1970. It was renamed Hyde Park 2. The original Hyde Park Theatre at 53rd & Lake Park was renamed Hyde Park 1. Two separate Hyde Park theatres at two different locations. After Hyde Park 1 closed its doors permanently, Hyde Park 2 became simply the Hyde Park Theatre and stayed that way until it reopened in 2013 and became the Harper again.

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