Will Rogers Theater

5641 W. Belmont Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60634

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Will Rogers Theatre exterior

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Will Rogers Theater, opened in 1936, was named in tribute to Will Rogers, who had died in a plane crash the year before. The Rapp & Rapp designed movie house was located on Belmont Avenue at Parkside Avenue in the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood of Chicago.

The theater’s Art Deco style design was influenced by ideas featured in the architecture of Chicago’s Century of Progress World’s Fair of 1933.

Operating into the mid-1980’s, the Will Rogers Theater was demolished in 1987 to make way for the strip mall which sits on the site today.

Contributed by Ray Martinez, Chris Siuty

Recent comments (view all 76 comments)

rivest266 on June 28, 2012 at 5:53 pm

September 5th, 1936 ad uploaded here in the photo section.

BobbyS on July 20, 2012 at 1:23 am

Great photo btkrefft….I went there many saturdays in the 50’s as we were “dropped off” as parents visited relatives who lived 2 blocks away. It is sad how so many great neighborhoods have changed for the worse in Chicago.

Broan on October 21, 2012 at 7:35 pm


Kent on August 10, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Oddly enough my grandmother took me to see Funny Girl for my first movie there, in 1968 (I was 7). And the last time I went to this theater, ahortly after she passed away in 1979, and I saw the Muppet Movie. Yes, me at 18 sitting in the middle of the Will Rogers Theater, by myself, simultaneously smiling and crying, surrounded by children, as Kermit sang “The Rainbow Connextion”.

Broan on January 17, 2016 at 6:22 pm

Here is a photo of the Will Rogers auditorium from THSA. Several others can be found through search.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 18, 2016 at 2:24 am

Linkrot repair: The brief article about the Will Rogers Theatre in the October 17, 1936, issue of Boxoffice can now be found here.

Charles_Williams on July 2, 2016 at 1:23 pm

I manage a resale and just got in an old reel that was mailed to The Will Rogers Theater. It’s from Columbia pictures. It’s titled “Banapple Gas” which was a Cat Stevens song. Anyone know anything about this? Just reaching out. Kinda new to all this.

Charles_Williams on July 3, 2016 at 10:57 am

Thanks, for the reply. It actually came in as a donation from someone that has had it in their possession. It was not mailed here. I looked at the way I worded it. I’m just curious if it has value?

Roustabout on July 4, 2016 at 1:48 pm

Charles, check out YouTube. Search under “Cat Stevens Banapple Gas 1976 Promo” and read the comments.
A few people did mention seeing it in the theaters.
It was not uncommon for vacant or abandoned theaters to leave some projection equipment and old film behind.
I am speculating that before the wrecking ball arrived at the Will Rogers, this short film left the building and eventually made its way to you. Is it worth anything ? I am guessing you have a 35 mm print. In my opinion, that would limit its potential value.
That being said, I see a lot of unique items on eBay, Amazon and some other venues that do sell. Hope this helps. Good luck.

Charles_Williams on July 8, 2016 at 5:15 pm

Roustabout, thank you for the info. Very helpful! I have someone interested but wasn’t sure of a price. It is actual theater film stock(bigger than 35mm). My understanding flammable. It’s in a tin box.

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