Cinema Theater

151 E. Chicago Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60611

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Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on November 20, 2013 at 8:56 pm

I was THEEEE last usher to work there in 1981. The last movie was ATLANTIC CITY. The very last shot was a building being torn down. That’s exactly what happened a couple of days later.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on November 20, 2013 at 5:54 pm

I ran into an old friend recently who told me a cool story. He worked at the Cinema in the early `70’s when “Le Boucher”(The Butcher) played there several times. He was instructed by Mr. Usher to go up on a ladder and touch up the red paint on the marquee. Before he could finish, the can fell to the sidewalk and splattered red paint everywhere. They tried to clean up as much as they could, but being oil base paint the turpentine could only do so much as to spread it around, in the time they had. Because of the film’s theme however, theater goers just assumed it was another of Oscar Brotman’s showman’s touch.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on September 12, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Today is September 13, 2011. Today is the 30th Anniversary of the Cinema Theatre’s last picture show. The last movie to play at the Cinema was ATLANTIC CITY. The theatre was torn down 3 days later.

millege1
millege1 on February 24, 2011 at 1:43 pm

I’m looking for information on a film that was shown at the Cinema in 1965-1966. It was called “The Double-Barrelled Detective Story.” According to newspaper ads, this film opened on New Years' Eve, 1965. Executive prodecuers were Zev braun and Irving S. White of Chicago. The director was Adolfas Mekas. I’ve been told that, due to an argument between the producer and the investors, the film was never officially released. The story goes that all the working prints and files were sent from New York to Chicago, and were “lost” in transit. However, some prints were made and shown at the Cinema, and in Paris. Mr. Mekas feels that the Chicago print(and the other stuff) is lying in a Chicago warehouse, moldering. All that exists now is a “trailer” and some publicity photos. Does anyone connected with the Cinema Theater remember this film?

dctrig
dctrig on October 14, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I live in Los Angeles but remember the heyday of the unbelievable runs of “A Man and a Woman” and “Charly.”

The only time I was forced to sit in the front row was when I took a date to see “Charly” during a sold-out screening (Ouch, I think my eyeballs are still hurting).

I cannot understand why domestic and international tourists do not flock to L A for the single screen experience, as business is very soft. What other city still has three 7-day-a-week cinemas seating over 1000 and eight seating 500 or more? In total there are about 25 single screens in LA/Orange County open one or more days a week.

Today, for instance, I am going to the gorgeous 1000-seat Goldwyn theater to see the 50th anniversary showing of “Wild River.” Bruce Dern and others will do a Q & A. The Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Oscars people, run the program and only charge $5 for the public and $3 for academy members.

I have fond memories of seeing Roger Ebert and sometimes Gene Siskel at Chicago theaters in the 60s and 70s. Now I get to talk to Leonard Maltin who is a frequent attendee and/or speaker at L A events.

Anyone visiting S Calif feel free to contact me.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on September 20, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Yes, the taxes. That unfortunately was first & foremost in the destruction of many Near North side buildings of significance. Multiple individual units upwards, meant far more money in the city & county’s pocket.

Even 1920’s low rises built by historic architects were sacrificed.
The real gall was when such demolitions were questioned or exposed by preservationists, public officials arrogantly claimed “they weren’t that significant”. The S/W corner of Superior & Wabash comes to mind. Where Zuverink was the anchor tenant.
Torn down around early 2000. Shameful.

GFeret
GFeret on September 20, 2010 at 12:03 pm

saw BAD TIMING: A SENSUAL OBSESSION at Cinema. it’s a 1980 film but doesn’t appear on above list so it must’ve played in ‘81.

also saw there Wilder’s FEDORA

the before and after picture’s have to be the most astonishing contrast ever in real estate development over just a couple years. The Cinema little arthouse theatre on Chicago Ave at Michigan = the before. then the after = an enormous skyscraper constructed on its former site. can you imagine the difference in property taxes for the same address?

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on September 13, 2010 at 3:13 pm

You can’t go out without a better Actor.Burt Lancaster was a great actor.At least it wasn’t “Shaft Part III”.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on September 13, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Today, September 13, is a sad anniversary. It was on this date in 1981, the Cinema Theatre showed its last picture show: ATLANTIC CITY with Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon. The theatre was torn down about 3 days later. As a matter of fact, all the theatres that were in operation around that area at the time are all gone. I still miss the Cinema Theatre. It was my first movie theatre gig.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on September 6, 2010 at 3:40 pm

OeOe,You GOT us all Beat.

OeOeO
OeOeO on September 6, 2010 at 11:49 am

The most unfortunate pairing I ever saw was at a Twin in a Joliet shopping center in 1987. One was an Eddie Murphy movie, the other , a Barbra Streisand flick. The Marquee read : RAW NUTS.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on May 21, 2010 at 4:05 pm

You gotta be kidding Tim. I think that might just top mine. At least both of mine were R- rated.

RickB
RickB on May 21, 2010 at 4:04 pm

One I watched at the Adelphi: TAXI DRIVER and KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on May 21, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Back in the summer of 1977, I went to the Colony Theatre to watch MURDER BY DEATH and TAXI DRIVER.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on May 21, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Most screwed up DOUBLE FEATURE.12-17-71.You can’t make this up.

“SHAFT” and “WHERE’S POPPA?”. Someone plez try and top that one.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on May 21, 2010 at 11:51 am

Interesting name for a theatre.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on December 26, 2009 at 1:58 am

Today, December 26, 2009, is the 80th Anniversary of the opening of the Cinema Theatre. The Cinema lasted only 52 years. I wasn’t there opening day, but I was working there on it’s last night in 1981. I remember on the last day, Oscar Brotman had a special closing day offer: If you walked up to the box-office and said: “Wally Phillips is a nut” you got in for free. Oscar Brotman (1915-1994). I heard he was difficult, not easy to work for, but what a showman. What an era. It’s weird: All the theatres that were operating on the Near North Side of Chicago back then are all gone now. It was such a wonderful time.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on November 4, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Cinema Mary, I used to work at the Cinema. You took pictures of us and the theatre itself on it’s last day. If you still have them will you please email them to me at I would be very grateful. Thank you so much.—Tim O'Neill

JRS40
JRS40 on November 3, 2009 at 10:18 am

Cinemark – CUTTERS WAY did play at the Biograph so you should be able to find it on microfilm as Tim suggested.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on October 29, 2009 at 11:37 pm

CF I remember that title. I can’t remember where it played. It did not play at the Cinema when I was there. Maybe it was at Biograph. The best thing to do is go downtown to the Harold Washington Library 3rd floor microfilm room and check out Chicago newspaper ads from around March 1981 and beyond. I seem to recall Gene Siskel admiring this movie. Also, check out Chicago Tribune archives, maybe there’s a Siskel review. He usually mentioned the name of a theatre whenever a small movie played in town.

CinemarkFan
CinemarkFan on October 29, 2009 at 11:14 pm

Tim, do you remember if a movie called “Cutter’s Way” played at the Cinema? It was released in NY under the original (novel) title “Cutter & Bone” in the spring of ‘81, but pulled due to poor reaction. It came out again that summer under the new title, and did better, but not by much. I’m hoping to get a microfilm ad of it if Chicago ever got the movie. I figured that this theater was an art house, and “Cutter” would’ve played here or the Sandburg if released in chi-town.

Tim O'Neill
Tim O'Neill on October 29, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Hello cinema lovers. My name is Tim O'Neill and I know a thing or two about the Cinema Theatre. It opened on December 26, 1929 and it closed on Sunday, September 13, 1981. I started my movie theatre career at the Cinema on Sunday, March 22, 1981. Six months later the theatre was gone. I was the last usher to work there. Cortez Holland was the last union projectionist. Jerry Usher was the last manager. The crazy beautiful Leslie Lendahl was the last cashier. The last movie was ATLANTIC CITY. It was such a cute little movie house (471 seats, including a 25 seat balcony.) There’s not a day goes by when I don’t think about the Cinema Theatre.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on October 2, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Image about half way down this page:

View link

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on April 7, 2009 at 8:28 am

I wish I’d known of the record run of “Charly” at the Cinema Theatre earlier. I shot an interview of Cliff Robertson at a Friends Of Miegs Field event not far from there, I think at the Ritz. So maybe 2003 or so. Given the time frame of what sadly happened to Miegs.

Robertson was there because he was apparently a pilot. He had a funny story about being mistakenly recognized by children once as JFK, whom I believe he played.
After describing to them that he was really just an actor, a little girl said “no you’re not, you’re Charly and your an idiot!”

Anyway, if we knew at the time of Robertson’s mild connection to the Cinema Theatre, we could have come up with some further banter or sparked some other Chicago area theater memories of his. If he had any. The actors always do.

Broan
Broan on February 14, 2009 at 9:16 pm

A “Little Club Cafe (Un Petit Cercle)” featuring dance music and French cuisine was opened at this site in 1924 and is probably the origin of the building. The Cinema operated as an art house even in 1930 with the slogan “The Art Theater of Shadow Silence”. The Cinema was the German-language UFA Cinema from October 1931-May 1932.