Nortown Theater

6320 N. Western Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60659

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Nortown Theater

Built by Publix-Balaban & Katz. Opened on April 4th, 1931 with Nancy Carroll in “Stolen Heaven” and Laurel & Hardy in “Chickens Come Home”. The Nortown Theater was an Atmospheric style theater which was known for it striking seaside theme sea horse, mermaid, and zodiac motifs. It was designed by architect James E.O. Pridmore. The Nortown Theater was located in the West Ridge neighborhood on N. Western Avenue near W. Rosemont Avenue. It featured a 3/15 Wurlitzer theater organ which was opened by organist Eddie House ‘Chicago’s Premier Singing Organist’.

The theater closed in 1990 after an unsuccessful triplexing in 1984 and was afterward used as a community center and still later, as a church.

Unfortunately, the Nortown Theater was demolished in June-August 2007. A great deal of the theater’s decorative terra-cotta and plaster was salvaged before the building was torn down. Condominiums and two small cinemas (which will cater to Pakistani and Indian audiences), along with retail space, were planned to replace the Nortown Theater. However these fell through and in January 2016 it was announced a Wendy’s restaurant would be built on the site.

Contributed by Ray Martinez

Recent comments (view all 234 comments)

Shelly77 on June 24, 2014 at 2:58 am

Going there as a youngster in the early 1950’s I remember the ceiling with twinkling stars, my first screening of Wizard of Oz, “Charge at Feather River” in 3D, George selling KarmelKorn in the store next door.

Batwoman on June 24, 2014 at 6:05 am

Jayne, would you mind scanning and uploading the pictures? I would love to see them.

SarahFreeh212 on October 30, 2014 at 3:19 pm

I wish I could have seen this place when it was still operational.. I was privileged to be able to go in 2007 to assist in some of the salvaging. We found so many remarkable things in there. It was pretty cool to find the old candy wrappers, ticket stubs, matchbooks underneath the seats as they were coming out. It was beautiful inside even half torn down.

RickB on January 28, 2016 at 11:20 pm

Ultimately, the occupant of the Nortown site will be…a Wendy’s.

DavidZornig on August 15, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Auditorium photo in below link.

DavidZornig on August 15, 2017 at 3:12 pm

1934 photo added courtesy of the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society Facebook page.

DavidZornig on September 25, 2017 at 5:03 am

Mid `80s night photo added courtesy of Michael Murphy‎.

whtesoxfan56 on September 30, 2017 at 5:54 am

To SarahFreeh212, I only saw one movie here ever. I think it was in the late 80s/early 90s, when I recall seeing a kiddie movie of some sort that was playing here. Wish I could’ve visited this theater more than once, since it was an amazing theater. It’s a major shame it wasn’t saved from the wrecking ball. :(

DavidZornig on November 30, 2017 at 3:27 am

1931 photo added credit Theatre Historical Society of America.

LouRugani on May 20, 2020 at 4:17 pm

Old Nortown Theater Lot on Western Avenue To Become a Wendy’s –
by Linze Rice, January 28, 2016

WEST RIDGE — The site where the old Nortown Theater was built in 1931 along Western Avenue will soon become a Wendy’s fast food restaurant, according to records. In December, city officials approved a building exception for the drive-through restaurant, sponsored by Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th), and the Wendy’s website lists a new location coming to 6324 N. Western Ave. Officials with the burger chain did not respond to requests for comment.

The property at 6324-46 N. Western Ave. was the home to the Nortown Theater from 1931-90 and was known for its nautical architectural themes — complete with mermaids on its facade — before trying to transition into the multiplex movie theater scene in 1984. The theater even housed a Wurlitzer organ before it was demolished in September 2007. The lot almost became a six-story condo building with retail and parking, property records show.

In January 2007, property owner and Dunkin' Donuts mogul Amrit Patel hired VOA Associates for work on the lot. By December 2008 VOA said in court documents it had “satisfactorily performed services” — but was still owed $90,746 by Patel. Patel also built the Monsoon Plaza across the street, which he planned to develop before the market crashed in 2008. The plaza was recently bought by BMW dealership owner Joe Perillo, though it’s not expected to become a car lot.

In May 2012, the property was foreclosed upon (in 2009 alone Patel faced 14 foreclosures and more than $28.4 million in owed fees — including $8.8 million for Monsoon Plaza’s construction) and by October it was bought by developer Adrian Tudor. Tudor was sued by the city in February 2013 for various code violations at the site, and in April he signed the building over to the city.

In October 2013, the city settled with Tudor, who agreed to pay $748 in fines and litigation fees, and legal documents show Tudor admitted to storing and parking vehicles at the property since December 2012.

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