Nortown Theater

6320 N. Western Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60659

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Nortown Theater

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Opened on April 4th, 1931, the Nortown was an Atmospheric style theater which was known for it striking 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 once featured a 3/15 Wurlitzer theater organ.

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 229 comments)

DavidZornig on November 22, 2010 at 3:14 am

Yeah, all of the above.
Plus I’m sure the cost of heating & cooling such a large structure year round took it’s financial toll.
The basic overhead of such utilities was less of an issue back in the day when these old palaces had full houses.
I mentioned this of some of the downtown theater pages as well.

Batwoman on January 20, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Life, yeah I was there in ‘09, stopped by to see the old place on my way back from checking out Le Cordon Bleu and I was surprised at how small the lot was. I remember the building being HUGE and then the stores next to it went up to Woolworth, or at least it seemed like it. It’s funny that I don’t even remember that alley access, growing up.

I took a few pictures with my cell phone of the lot and the ads that were painted on the buildings, hidden away for close to a century. The pictures are on facebook right now but can upload them to flickr if anyone’s interested.

edoggy99 on July 14, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Cool Site.Worked at Nortown from 1978-1982 thru High School. Lied about my age at 15 and worked as an usher. The first movie for me was The Black Hole.Had a mickey mouse trailer to begin flick. I can tell you there are catacombs underneath which I explored. I think it was part of old ac process. We would go under and freak out patrons by moaning loud. Met alot of fun people there. When I was 13 I walked 3 miles to see Star Wars in 77. Anyhow see you all later Ian

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on July 28, 2012 at 2:36 am

There is still no new development on this property. Can anyone say: Pop goes the bubble?

In all fairness I’m not sure what future an aging, run down movie palace had in a middle class ethnic neighborhood. The end was probably just sped up by the real estate frenzy.

Whatever the eventual outcome it was sad to see it go.

Batwoman on July 28, 2012 at 3:39 am

Yes, very sad to see it go. :(

At least there’s hope for other aging theater palaces. The Genesee theater was fully restored several years ago and is absolutely beautiful! I saw a concert there last year and because I had volunteered to run the merch tables (got me in for free), I was in the lobby during the opening act. I was talking to the workers and a guy that works there knew of Nortown. I forget if he said he worked there too, but he was telling me how they fought to save the Genesee from the wrecking ball and literally managed it as the wrecking ball was outside, waiting to take a swing the next morning.

Jayne1955 on March 10, 2014 at 8:22 am

Worked there eight years. Just got a large collection of photos from one of the former managers. Miss that place madly. It was very cool and when I worked there in the 70[s and early 80’s it was in pretty good shape.

Shelly77 on June 24, 2014 at 9:58 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 1:05 pm

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

SarahFreeh212 on October 30, 2014 at 11:19 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 29, 2016 at 7:20 am

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

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